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4/18/10 The Middle of Beautiful Nowhere

It's time.

After 26 months in-country, after 23 months of service, it's time for me to go...which means it's time for me to be replaced.

I'm on the cusp of my Berberville departure, which means Berberville will get a new Environment PCV to carry on my work and begin his own.

My replacement's term of service starts May 5th, which means we'll get 2 weeks of overlap before I swear out on May 19th (inshallah)...but he's here now, getting his "Site Visit", aka sneak peak.

I admit, I was a little apprehensive about my replacement. I knew he'd be male, since I'd insisted on that with my entire staff, all the way up and down the chain of command. But beyond that, I had no idea what to expect. I could anticipate a great person, simply Peace Corps is just about exclusively staffed by amazing human beings, but still...

What if he doesn't like Berberville?

What if my host family doesn't like

What if he alienates everyone I care about in town?

I admit, the first concern was probably the biggest. I could be almost positive that he'd be likeable, since, hey, he's a Peace Corps Volunteer. But what if he didn't like the town I've come to love? What if he took one look at my naked mountains and barren hillsides and recoiled?

This fear is well-grounded: my first stories of Berberville came from a CBT/stage friend, who came here on a field trip. She came back to us with stories of "the ugliest place in Morocco". She said something like, "If they put me there, I'll cry. And then I'll ET."

So when I got assigned this site, I thought, Oh, no, I'm going to the ugliest spot in Morocco!

But then I came here.

And I realized that there are many kinds of beauty. And while my friend didn't appreciate the sere beauty of my brown hillsides, I rejoice in the visible geology, with its sweeping folds and tearing faults and the vertical beds that rise like highways to heaven. I've taken hundreds of photos that I hope will be published in geological textbooks - this place is literally textbook geology. I've seen cross-cutting relationships that took my breath away, and complex folds that stir my heart.

Am I a geonerd? Abso-blimmin-lutely.

But I find my site truly, deeply beautiful...and I want others to, too.

The times I've shared my site with visitors, I wait with bated breath to hear them say something gently disparaging, like, "It must have been lovely when trees covered the hillsides," or "Well, at least the skyline is kind of dramatic."

So far, everyone has admitted only to liking it.


But still, what if my shoes were filled by someone who felt Berberville was a site to endure instead of a place to celebrate?

So his reaction mattered.

As we rode up on our four-hour journey from SouqTown, he kept asking me about the geology.

This encouraged me.

His field is biology, not geology, but he finds it interesting.

I felt hopeful.

When we got to the final 5 km of the trip - the most breathtaking geology I've ever seen (and yes, I've been to the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park and other gorgeous spots) - he let me revel in the beauty. He sounded appropriately appreciative, for which I was grateful. I told him how nervous I'd been that he might not like it.

His response: "Anyone who can come to the middle of beautiful nowhere and not appreciate it shouldn't even be in Peace Corps."

The middle of beautiful nowhere.

150 km from any decent-sized town.

12 hours from any city.

The cultural, historical, and geographical center of Morocco.

The middle of beautiful nowhere.

Oh, and my host family and everyone else? They like him.

Yeah, I'm leaving Berberville in good hands.

Alhumdulillah! :D

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