abuela's advice

I was recently ill for two weeks and was sent to the capital for testing. Honeymoon stage over. I was fed up, literally, with the pressure to eat constantly and struggling without my wont alone time. I spoke with my grandma who calls me crreees, my abuela Enriqueta, a lot during this time, and she helped me work through the significance of getting sick.

I expressed to her the need to stand up for myself to stay healthy. She made the obvious observation that while I’m trying my best to accept the Moroccan culture, I can facilitate their acceptance of mine. In my preoccupation with integrating I neglected the parts of myself I can’t or won’t let go of. While I was struggling to balance assimilation and sanity, her advice triggered my realization of the new parallel between us.

Familiar with her arduous journey to the States from Peru, I ignorantly assumed that upon arrival she was automatically happier due to her physical location. It was her dream to be there, and she had arrived. I was aware that her migration was difficult but never thought of her integration. Sadly, I often only thought of the benefits of her living in the US, probably because it had no palpable negative implications for me. US culture, being my own, seemed simple to acclimate to with its conveniences and opportunities. So ethnocentric, I know. What a privilege to live in the US, how could you miss Peru? I wouldn’t because I couldn’t. Although the US did and does have a lot to offer my family, no matter what is has over Peru doesn’t negate my abuela abandoning her home.

Abuela encountered extra encumbrances, such as immigration policy, no support in country, and poverty. But she can also understand the challenges I face today. She did not speak the language of the land and was too busy working to attend expensive English classes. She can fathom the feeling of forsaking my comfortable way of life, of leaving my family behind in pursuit of an undefined ambition. She never even realistically had the option to go back to live in Peru. She would have nothing there if she did.

Peace Corps is trying at times now, and tougher days will come. Her empathy revived my resolution and reminded me why I'm here. Of course it’s not the same as moving your whole life forever to a new place out of need, not want. But I still feel lucky and fulfilled to understand even a fraction of her experience through mine. I want to carry some of her burden, partly out of appreciation and also perhaps out of subconscious guilt. I don’t have the right to chill in my comfort zone. She didn’t deserve that hardship any more than I didn’t. This is my attempt at a small sacrifice, small because it’s optional and temporary, so the people I reach might not have to give up as much in their lives. I cried to her on FaceTime, wanting her to feel my slight guilt for never fully empathizing with her sacrifice but also my pride in her strength.

Although moving to Morocco isn’t always really easy, there is much for me to gain here. This isn’t an altruistic endeavor. I'm currently reading Walden and encountered Thoreau's opinion on philanthropy at a relevant time in my life. Simplified, he explains that philanthropy is selfish and overrated for two reasons: he believes you should put your oxygen mask on before you help others and that giving a little while you live well isn’t admirable. He also says if it's your calling, go for it. Although I agree it can be selfish, just because giving has rewards doesn’t mean it’s not a valuable gift. Any charity is optional and, in my opinion, whether fueled by guilt or vanity, can do good. I get to live in another country, travel, learn a new language and culture, gain professional experience, and meet some of the best people I’ve ever met. But that doesn’t mean my attempt to help isn’t worthwhile.

In the 36 years my grandma has been in the US, she has accomplished so much without letting go of her home. I’m thankful that Peru was passed down to me because her and my mom weren’t willing to let that part of them go. I was so worried of diverging from the Moroccan culture by staying true to mine that I didn't think of the negative impacts that might have on me. There are parts of me that I can’t or don’t want to change, and that’s not a bad thing. If they aren’t harmful or offensive in my new context, I shouldn’t have to give them up. I wasn’t giving my Moroccan family the benefit of the doubt, but once I did, they accepted and respected my needs.


P.S. I recently found out my final site where I'll spend two years. I'll be moving there in two weeks. Although I can't share the location publicly, hmu to talk about it because it's lit.