I was determined to go to a church service for Easter, much in the same way I was determined to have dyed eggs for Easter and boiled vegetables for dye that adorned my homegrown eggs. The truth is I have become an Easter-and-Christmas churchgoer since I’ve come to Morocco. Well, except I didn’t go to church on Christmas either.
There is something about being in this country away from home. On one hand it is easy to be the sponge absorbing the culture around me, learning and discovering. I’m suspended in a new cultural bubble away from what I came into the world knowing. It is in this way I’m developing a new appreciation and understanding for mint tea, Islamic culture, and making sure your guests have too much to eat. On the other hand my own alien quality here sometimes makes me feel like I’m on an island-- those comforts and routines of home and community are sorely missed. Church is among them.
It is with this hunger that I eagerly jumped at the opportunity to attend an actual church service on Easter day as proposed by my closest PCV neighbor, Alex-- never mind that there was an ongoing transportation strike in Morocco.
Alex fell into an invitation by the pastor himself to host us volunteers (including another PCV neighbor, Meghan) the night before so that we could attend the sunrise service with them. So that Saturday we prepared some delicious lemon cranberry scones (thanks for the cranberries mom!) for an Easter potluck brunch at the pastor’s house, and made our way to the taxi stand. Fortunately for us, the taxi drivers in my town had changed their minds from the “la, makaynsh” I got in the morning and took us to Rabat anyway. Well, almost to Rabat. We had to get out of the cab just outside of town so our driver wouldn’t “get rocks thrown at him” by the strikers. We caught a bus, and then a petit taxi (not yet on strike) and found ourselves at the doorstop of a very American couple.
More than anything the experience made me realized how much I’ve adjusted to Moroccan hospitality and custom (it was a joke that I felt compelled to remove my shoes to walk on their carpet). It also, much like the scent of cinnamon-rolls that the pastor’s wife was preparing for the next day, brought on a feeling of nostalgia and longing for the familiar. We were lulled to sleep watching a movie with bellies full of Pizza Hut.
The alarm went off at 4:30am and we all got up, got ready and headed out to the Chellah. Lined up against the crumbling wall and looking out over the valley-landscape was an inspiring spot to spend and Easter service. The cranes were clacking their beaks and gliding low over the trees below us as the sun peeked out between two banks of clouds as we remembered why we were there.
Afterwards the brunch followed. Much English was spoken amongst those from many different countries. As the brunch came to an end, the three of us decided we could use a little more church and went to the next service in the actual church. Here again, the diversity was inspiring. What brought us all to that place at that time were our common beliefs and language in a country where they are uncommon. It was freeing to hear my voice with it’s own Midwestern US accent join in song with those from Europe and West Africa, Asia…
The rest of the day was pleasant, if not newsworthy. I relaxed and enjoyed Rabat after I discovered the possibility of leaving the city that day was slim (Rabat taxi drivers demonstrated more solidarity). I did eventually make it home, but that is another story altogether.
I am currently serving in Peace Corps, Morocco, as a small business developer working with artisans since September 2008. I have a Master of Fine Art, in studio art from Washington University in St. Louis.