Letter to 99
By Volunteer Casey (Staj 100)
Staj 101 is here and because my final site is a training site, staff from Headquarters are roaming in and out of my places of work and two training groups have jumped off the deep end and are fully engaged in the awful work/life balance that is PST. And while I’m excited to work with them and get to know them, I find myself in a bittersweet mood because their arrival means your imminent departure, and I’m not quite ready for that.
You were there when we got off the plane. You were our online mentors before that but we didn’t know your faces. When we saw you at the airport we didn’t know who you were or why you were there taking pictures of us in hour 30 of our travel but then again I didn’t know who I was sitting next to on the plane/bus/dinner table. You were there at the hotel the next morning when we were bright eyed and sleep-deprived and asked you what the same 7 questions over and over again. You were at the first trainings, at training sites, at clusters and hubs, and when we set off to our final sites, you went with us (or met us along the way). Thank you.
I truly don’t know what we would have done without you. You eased us in as much as humanly possible to this whirlwind that is Peace Corps Morocco. Thank you for answering our questions honestly, but for making sure you didn’t scare us too badly. Thanks for filling in the gaps that Staff couldn’t/wouldn’t answer for us. Thank you for making sure there were spaces where we could ask you harder questions about what to expect in Morocco regarding our various identities. Thank you for never hesitating to write down your phone numbers/emails/whatsapps/facebooks and making sure we knew that you were ready to help if ever the need should arise.
Thank you for continuing to come to our trainings even when your presentations were sidelined. When you were finally able to speak we hung on every word, and when you weren’t given enough time we scribbled all over our feedback forms: “LET THE 99ERS PRESENT”. Every time. Thanks for coming back again and again. And for knowing that we wanted to hear from you and for creating activities for us to get to know you and each other. And for hosting activities that helped us feel sane after hours of being spoken to. Thanks for giving us a chance to speak.
Thank you for sharing all of your tips and tricks for survival. Phrases to keep in our back pocket, how to cook and bake with a lack of “necessary” ingredients, when to keep pushing and when to let it be, and who to call in what situation. “Shnu galti khoya? Masm3sh. H’shuma. Fin mamak?”. Words to live by.
Thank you for reaching out to us as soon as we were assigned our final sites. I don’t know how you all found out who was where (Peace Corps Grape Vine), but you were quick to contact us and let us know who would be nearby when we no longer had our training groups and LCFs for support. For those of us going far from CBT you were there to ease the fear of being alone in a foreign part of a foreign country and for those of us staying it was incredible to meet you as soon as we did.
Thanks for then meeting us all over the country to help us find our final sites. Whether it was one hour or 14 hours from the Swear-In ceremony we were all terrified to start these solo journeys, and so to have a friendly (english-speaking) face as we fumbled through taxi stands and communicating with new host families was a gift. Thank you for helping us reach our new homes safely. Thanks for not laughing too hard as I ran into the lobby screaming “WHERE’S AN LCF??” after a phone call to my new host family highlighted just how little Darija I had and threw me into a panic.
Thank you for reaching out once we were in-site. New questions arose every day and to have someone nearby-ish to look to for answers made asking the question that much easier. Thank you for helping us navigate sou9. And thanks for the relief from the host family. 4 months of living with other people was tiring, and you gave us the reprieves we needed.
Thank you for hosting holiday parties. We were still with host families, we couldn’t travel to see our Peace Corps friends across the country, and we couldn’t go home. For many of us it was our first holiday season away from our US families and traditions. Thank you for providing us with a space to be ourselves and to celebrate our traditions and cook our family’s recipes (or as close as we could get to them) and to simply be ourselves in a country where “Christmas” and “Hannukah” are things you only see in movies.
Thank you for being our mentors and site-mates and Peace Corps Parents, but thank you most of all for being our friends. Thanks for inviting us to gatherings and hanging out with us and saying “now you’re a real Volunteer!” when we finally learned from experiences. We know you welcomed us with a warmth you did not receive yourselves, and that is an incredible gift. When the day comes (and boy is it coming fast) it will be hard to say goodbye because you have been such an integral part of our service. You’ve been our friends. And when you’re gone it will be our job to know everything. I still don’t know anything. I still believe that you do.
I’ve said thank you too many times at this point, but I mean every single one of them. I’m lucky enough to be able to have said goodbye to many of you in person. I’m on a Peace Corps budget so the best we can do it to pay it forward. Trust me when I say you have started a good thing, and Staj 101 will receive the best hospitality we can muster, all thanks to yours.
Safi baraka. Shuks bzuks!
And go have an adventure, whatever you may be doing next.
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