24 August 2015

meet me in Casablanca

As soon as I stood up I knew I had made a terrible mistake.

I was at the far end of a dirty baggage carousel in the Philadelphia airport. At my feet was a giant purple roller bag resembling a stroller for quadruplets, a massive army canvas duffel bag that had looked *just perfect* on Amazon a few weeks earlier but was now obviously the girth of a Volkswagen, and my new REI backpack filled to the brim, complete with dangling nylon sleeping bag sack that had hit against my ankles as I walked.

There was no way I was going to be able to carry all of this even the short distance from the baggage claim to the taxi by myself.

Getting my bags on the plane had not been such a problem. Jon swung the duffel bag over his broad shoulder and rolled the purple monster to the counter with ease. I let the overstuffed backpack drop to my knees and made my most convincing puppy dogs eyes, mumbling something about "books for the African children..." as the ticketing agent weighed my luggage. She avoided eye contact as she unemotionally stated "11 pounds over. That will be a $75 charge."

The purple monster was supposed to be the easy one. It was filled only with clothes and light shoes and some toiletries. But for the past 6 months I had been on a clothes-buying frenzy, spun up into a panic over what to wear in my new Islamic home. It is hard for a girl blessed with extreme decolletage to find shirts that cover just-so, and as someone who hadn't worn pants regularly in close to a decade I struggled for the right thing. I shopped and shopped and shopped. Peasant tops. Wide leg linen pants. Comfortable walking ballet slippers. And as much as I claimed to suffer replacing my circle skirted rainbow colored party dresses with unflattering, shapeless maxi skirts, it was nothing compared to the actual packing.

Because the actual packing, the actual placement of the myriad of new things bought expressly for my trip, made leaving my life and my love for 2 years entirely too real and immediate. Each time I would try to start dropping a sock or handkerchief into an empty bag I would feel the urge to crawl into a ball of mush on the ground and never leave the house, let alone the country, ever again. I was packing up until the moment I left the house on Sunday's rainy, dismal morning.
The night before I had mostly divided and packed all the things I had collected and researched and gathered with care. I weighed the bags on my old and beat up bathroom scale, so I knew they were overweight. But I just couldn't fathom pulling out some or all of the smushed objects and rejecting them from my trip. I was already too emotionally drained. "Fuck that," I thought. "Who charges a Peace Corps Volunteer for luggage anyway??"

What I had not completely considered was the small problem of being able to physically carry all of my luggage myself. An idea that was evident and pathetic as I stood in the Philadelphia airport, surrounded by luggage, lay in a bed of my own making.

"Do you need help, miss?" came a voice from behind. It was a valet with a large trolley.

"I can't do this," I said. "I can't do this," I said to myself as well. He loaded up the monsters on the cart and rolled them out to the taxi stand for me, in the freezing grey January Philly rain.

The next day, after sitting through cheesy team-building exercises and safety classes, the bellhop at the hotel loaded my wagons full of bricks onto the buses and I later grabbed a cart to wheel them up to the counter while checking into my flight.

The ticketing agent looked at my passport and my Peace Corps pins. He said my name in Arabic.

"Say it again?" I asked, and he did.

"In two years I will be saying it better than you do," I said, smiling at him. "You will see me and say 'How does that Moroccan girl speak such good English!'"

He weighed my bags and when he saw the number he glanced a me disapprovingly.
"Just this once?" I asked, with a little wink. "I promise I'll bring them back empty."

He smiled at me. "Just this once," he said as he handed me my boarding passes. I felt light without my colossal luggage as it  rolled away into the mystery of the airport guts.

I added myself to the security line to find my plane that would take me across the ocean to Morocco. And I was feeling like I can do this. 

I think I can do this. I have not made a huge mistake. 

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