Thursday, March 24, 2011

I have a new name…

We drove northeast from Ourzazate in a grand taxi with our LCF, Said. Before we even left the city limits we started bombarding him with questions. “What’s the word for ‘mother?’ ‘Father, sister, brother, son, daughter…?’ You get it. Words for our everyday relationships and surroundings, words for the things we knew we would want to say, or need to say….and we knew none of them. About halfway into the drive, Mohammed, our driver, commented to Said that ours was certainly a different group. Apparently the previous group had been very quiet. I guess those are the two ways to deal with panic – go silent or jabber.

We talked non-stop, so that before we knew it we were in Qalaa, our souq town. We got out there and did some shopping – soap, toilet paper, and kitchen supplies. Also tubing and a valve for butagaz (butane?) the fuel that is used here. Apparently, we are going to have a shower with warm water in the LCF house – the first group to get such a luxury, according to Said.

From Qalaa, we turned onto a dirt road. The roads up to this time had been very good, but the road to our village is a two-track, and the going was slow, and not just because of the dump truck ahead of us spinning up dust. We’re in a rocky desert here, and we seemed to go up and down and around, every now and then pulling to the side so that another vehicle could squeeze by going in the other direction. After passing through several other villages, we finally arrived in our training village, wound along some rugged streets and pulled up in front of the LCF house.

Mohammed, the landlord greeted us warmly, and led us into his house. From the entryway, he took us through an open courtyard into a long, narrow room with carpets on the floor and pillows against the wall. We sat down and were treated to our first experience of tea. As soon as he had passed the glasses around and we had all taken a sip or two, the landlord’s wife came in, greeted us, and began asking our names. At the very first one – Ryan - she repeated it, thought about a moment, shook her head, No, and said, “Brahim.” She then went around to the rest and at each one gave us a new name – Nicole – “Najat”; Emma – “Amal”; Lindsey – “Zizi”; Jim – ” Jamal (جمال).

By this time, several other people had come into the room and sat down. The fellow next to me, a young man about 30, turned to me and said, “Jamal, my name is Hussain. You are my brother.” And in a few more minutes, I went off to my new home where I am known as Jamal.

I'll tell you about my home, my family and my town in future posts, but for now, just know that it's all good l-hamdullah (thanks be to God).


  1. And so the "small encounters" that you will always treasure ...begin

  2. Hi Jim, you don't know me however one day I hope to be a Peace Corps volunteer. I found your blog which is very entertaining and informative. I hope you don't mind if I follow along. Stacy