My apartment in Ifrane, Morocco, 5000 feet up in the hills above Fez, boasts a spacious living room, a great bathroom with a Western toilet and abundant hot water, a large bedroom with ample closet space and view of the forest. Once a week, a lovely Moroccan woman drops by to immaculate (verb form) every surface and do the laundry at the laundromat. Outside, perpetually azure skies rarely give way to anything less vibrant, and even the snows in the winter seldom last on the ground for more than a couple of days. Very Camelot-esque. Nothing to complain of there.
Nor with my work, challenging ESL courses including advanced writing and debate, delivered to students who occasionally appear motivated, frequently seem engaged, and generally keep me on my toes. “Did you do your homework?” “No, Ms. Castleton. I didn’t understand it.” “Oh, did you call, email, or drop by my office for answers?” “No, Ms. Castleton, I didn’t know if you were there.” “Which would be a good reason to write or call.” “Yes, Ms. Castleton. I’ll do better.” Yet, in the manner of the young and the well-heeled, as students at the university are, they have rarely been asked to fend for themselves or take a task to completion. No matter, by year three they will have been transformed as each learns the universal lesson of hard work
bringing results. Work is good.
Yet, when vacation time came, I packed and left with breathless alacrity, happily scheduling several weeks of time with my beloved daughter in New York, a three hundred mile drive to visit a university friend, 150 miles to spend time with another and a flight across country to stay a week with my last remaining sister and have a group lunch with 9 women friends who came from all over the Pacific Northwest to nosh and schmooze. In tandem with this feast of relatedness, a sensation of belonging that has eluded me for a very long time, came the realization I’ve been away from all of them so long. This week, my sister, dear Polly, is courageously facing challenges that would stump most of us. Knee surgery. It is finally time for family to come first.
Sixteen years ago, I went into the Peace Corps – a brilliant move, but one that has kept me in transition ever since. First came grad school, then the beginning of a new career in ESL instruction. Later, I packed for a move to accommodate a then-spouse’s career goals, followed by public school teaching, a stint in India, more public school teaching, the departure of said spouse, the job in Morocco, and then…what?
Tonight, my favorite driver, a steady, sane soul, will drive me 321 kilometers to Mohammed V Airport in Casablanca, where I will catch a 4am flight to JFK. From there, Seattle and all my tomorrows. Life is good.