Friday, October 23, 2009


Peace Corps mandated that all volunteers get flu vaccinations this year (seasonal flu, not H1N1). I got mine in Azilal, which is about 7 or 8 hours from my site. Although it was a long trip, I was glad to visit Azilal for the first time, which is a beautiful small (20,000) city.

On the way back, I got on a transit (owned by a guy from my site) from Boumia to Tounfite - the 2nd to last leg before arriving in my site. It was late, so this probably was the last transit making the trip. Just as the transit was pulling out, a couple of visibly drunk guys got on the transit. One of the sat down next to me.

The was loud and smoking a cigarette (bad form in a transit). He was carrying a clear plastic bag full of alcohol. I was tired from the long day of traveling really I didnt want to talk to anyone, especially a drunk obnoxious someone. But he wanted to talk to me, and loudly. He kept asking if I remembered him, which I did. At first it was just annoying...he wanted to kiss me a lot (sign of respect here) so he kept grabbing my head and kissing my forehead.

Then he started getting abusive. He was yelling at everyone in the transit. He spit in the direction of the driver. But most of his maliciousness was directed at me. He started saying very rude things to me. (I debated about whether or not to include translations...I decided to print everything. Please excuse the rudeness). Amongst other things, he said to me, "I fuck you," "I fuck your asshole," and "I fuck your mother." The transit was full of young men from my site, people that I have known for almost a year and half now. I looked to them for help, support. They said to me; "fist," which means "be quiet" in Tamazight. They didnt want to confront the guy. I couldnt believe it. Then the guy started telling the volunteer that I was traveling with, "Tell Duncan to shut up or I will hit him in the face." I didnt need the translation from my friend to understand.

At this point, I was still taking it pretty well. I was getting angry, but I was limiting my responses to: "youre drunk, be quiet," "enough talking," "im tired," and the like. I was very frustrated with my friends in the back, who would rather endure this guys abuse than stand up to him.

Then the guy opened up the plastic bag full of wine and started drinking it, inevitably spilling part of its contents on me. I turned to my Moroccan friends sitting behind me, told them that he was drinking alcohol, and asked them to do something about the situation. They told me, "just be quiet, what do you care?" Then the guy got right up in my face, said the shohada (the phrase that you say to convert to Islam: There is no God but Allah and Mohamed is his prophet). He demanded over and over that I say it. I wanted to point out the extreme contradiction of asking me to convert as he was stumbling over drunk, but I didnt. After he tired of this, the guy returned to his previous topic of conversation: my asshole and my mother.

I turned to the guy and said, in English, "All I want to do right now is hit you in your face with my fucking fist." Like I said earlier, "fist" in Tamazight means "be queit" or "shut up." And most people know the word "fuck." So he thought I was telling him to "fucking shut up." He wasnt really affected by my explosion; he kept harassing me and others in the transit.

We finally got to Tounfite and everyone got out. After the drunk guy was gone, my Moroccan friends apoligized to me and said the guy was an idiot. I was glad that they were finally acknowledging that the guy was in the wrong, but frankly I felt that their apologies were empty. I wanted to say, "Where were you guys when the drunk was in my face, yelling at me?" Its not like the guy posed any physical danger to us. He was one man amongst 20. Simply stop the transit, get everyone out, and make the guy ride on top. Or make him walk the rest of the way back. At the very least, stand up for yourself and your friend (a guest in your country).

Ive dealt with drunk idiots in the States before. That part bothered me, but not as much as the lack of support that I got from my "friends." I worry about how interactions such as this (and the one a couple weeks ago where a group of men told me I should have raped an American girl who visited my house) are permanently coloring my feelings about Morocco. Yes, there are lots of people that I have only positive interactions with and I care about quite a bit. But this minority (is it a minority? In two interactions, 20 out of 20 men have been complicit in disgusting behavior) is damaging how I feel about my time here.

OK, so despite this negative post, things are good. The time in Azilal was nice, although short. Its a beautiful town. No trash on the street, trees planted every 20 feet on the sidewalk, surrounded by mountains.

The preparations for the maternal and child health training are going well. I am feeling nervous about how the training will go, but a lot of it is out of my control. This project is the ultimate test of delegating responsibility, which is frightening for me. But Im getting better at not worrying things that I have no power over. The women will start arriving Monday. The training will start Wednesday and last until Friday. Several volunteers from the province are coming to help out, which is nice. I have big dreams and hopes for the training and follow up to the training.

I hope all is well. Take care.


Colton Bangs said...

i thought you were going to break your code of pacifism for a second there. though would you report it if you had?

Katherine said...

Crazy story, Duncan. I'm surprised you kept your cool for so long. I'm a month in to my mini visit to Morocco and I have to say that I'm finding life as a woman here, even in the more cosmopolitan Rabat, a little jarring. But, I guess I should be happy that the worst thing that's happened to me is almost getting punched in the face as a joke made by some jerk who passed by me in the medina. If you're ever in Rabat again, let me know, I'd love to catch up. ~Kathy (Long live Willets 2nd South!)

Jenn said...

I found your blog yesterday after googling "wahed juj tleta" trying to remember how to say 8 in Darija. I studied abroad in Rabat in 2006 and I have enjoyed reading your blog posts so much. It brings bag many good memories and some of the less good memories -the tea! The rampant diabetes! and also helps bring to light certain aspects that I only observed on the periphery while living in the city (i.e. my host father saying of my Arabic teacher with Amazighe ancestry, "He does not look like an Arab!" which confused me at the time.) Our experiences were different but I am noticing some similarities, too: I laughed out loud reading your typical conversation, remembering how many of my conversations with neighbors largely consisted of asking and answering, "How are you? Everything good? Everything fine? Your mother, she is well? Everything is good?" I remember ftours during Ramadan and the one morning I woke up at 4 to eat with my host father (never again....). Thank you for being generous and sharing your stories. You must be 2/3 through your service at this point - I wish you lots of luck. Bsalama. -- Jenn