Today, I miss my family.
Truthfully that sentence would be most accurately written “I miss my family every day.” But some days the missing gets to be a bit more intense, a bit more tangible. Like this morning. I sat and drank my first two cups of real coffee in months – not instant but actual coffee with grounds that I boiled in our kettle on the stove and then ran through a strainer. And the whole time all I could think of was my parents’ morning coffee routine, how they sit together with their coffee, at least two cups each, usually having to microwave it for a few seconds to get it to the tongue-burning stage of hot.
When I was in high school and college, leaving early in the morning for class, my parents would get up early to sit with me while I had breakfast, even if they weren’t planning on eating until much later in the morning, coffee always in hand. The morning was a time to sit together, trade sections of the newspaper, talk about plans for the day.
I’ve started to establish my own routines here in Morocco. I get up at 6:30 a.m. every morning and exercise. Then a cold, 1-minute shower. Then breakfast. Those things have become a constant, even though the rest of the day is somewhat unpredictable. I might have an English class seven enthusiastic guys show up to. I might have another English class no one shows up to. It’s hard to tell what will work and what won’t.
Days that are busy, of course, it’s easier to forget about homesickness. You’re excited about something that worked out or a new experience or a good conversation you had with your normal vegetable seller. But as things tend to shut down here in Morocco for the summer – the Dar Chababs, the women’s clubs, schools – I know the days are coming where there won’t be activities to sink myself into.
I still haven’t hit a deep low point in my service, and as it’s still very early on, I’m not deluding myself into thinking I’ve escaped the emotional low most Peace Corps Volunteers find themselves in at one point (or many points) or another. I know routines will help me pull myself out of low points – having things to do every day.
Some days, however, having a hug from your mom would make a world of difference. Family is one of the most important things in the world for Moroccans, that and Allah, and most of the time they think it’s crazy that we are willing to come halfway around the world by ourselves and live away from our families. Sometimes I think I am also crazy for that very reason. Children here live with their parents up until the time they get married here. People usually live in the same community as their families. There is a lot of value in having that support network around you.
And that makes me think about what it is I want after Peace Corps. A career in the Foreign Service, working at an embassy, living in a new country every few years. It sounds exciting, exactly the sort of thing that would give me lots of good stories to tell when I reach the feisty old lady stage of my life. But it would also mean being away from the people I love the most for a big chunk of my life. And would that be worth it? In some ways it might, in some ways it might not. Luckily I have a year or so to figure myself out.
Anyway, here’s what I do to beat the homesickness:
- Get out of the house. As tempting as it is to stay inside on the computer, a walk never fails to improve my mood.
- Skype/email with the family – I don’t know how PCVs did it before the Internet was widely available.
- Find something to work on, even if it’s fantasizing about projects that might happen a year from now. Or cooking something.
- Talk to other PCVs. That’s what our phone plan is for, after all.
I think the being away is part of what makes this worth it though. Because I appreciate the times I do get to talk to my parents and my sister that much more. Because I know me being successful here is just as important to them as it is to me. Because part of life is finding out what is most important to you.