a different shade

A volunteer finds home in his host community.


Darija: Moroccan Arabic

Imouzzer: a town in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco

By Matthew Villaluz - Peace Corps Volunteer, Morocco (2011 - 2013)

I have traded a family and an ocean for this.

Thrown across the other side of familiar,

into a country – a city of concrete and dust.

Heat that permeates to bone.  A fleeting breeze

that quenches the skin.  Dodging petit taxis

and street salesmen.  Car horns.  Yells in Darija.

The homeless begging.  Burning trash.

The unblinking stares that fall upon me like rain.

But as quickly as I was dropped into the city,

I came here, to Imouzzer.  The woods and quiet.

Streams and warm neighbors.  Laughter

and homemade bread.  A woman whom I barely

know tells me to call her “mama” as she pours

a glass of hot mint tea.  Shoes leaning on a wall

with peeling white paint.  My bulky white

sneakers in the middle of their modest, tired shoes.

In this house of once strangers, I found simply

a different shade of home.  

This poem was entered in the returned Volunteer category for the 2015 Peace Corps Poetry Contest. The contest received more than 1,000 submissions, representing over 50 years of Peace Corps service in more than 100 countries.

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