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STORY ONE Romance Morocco, Thanksgiving 1964 11 Ben Rymaker was so excited he hadn’t minded the eighteen hours on rickety buses. The mountain town he’d arrived in was quiet at eleven in the morning. The air was cold, and the bright sun made the poplar trees silvery. This would be his chance to see his friends from training, to be an American again. Turkey, stuffing—he couldn’t imagine how Bing had put it together but believed the promises he’d made in his letter. The two months since he’d begun his job at the ancient Koranic university to which he’d been assigned seemed like a long time, though he knew it wasn’t. What an adventure it had been. For the first time in Ben’s twenty-two years, he was happy and knew he was happy, both at once. Ben’s house in the medina of Marrakech, across the street from the old palace of the pasha, his landlord had said, once had a tunnel under the street to connect it to the palace. The house had been built for the palace guards. It was a big beige cube, unassuming from the outside, invisible among the others in the street, but huge and ornate inside. The street in front of his house was a Hollywood film set to Ben. Every morning when he opened his door he was stunned. Every form of wheeled vehicle moved by: donkey carts and men pulling makeshift wagons made of parts from junked vehicles with tires so worn they weren’t round anymore. People on mobylettes, people driving black Solex bikes, men on mules and horses, driving old cars. Black Citroens from the late forties, Peugeot group taxis filled with ten men and women arriving from their villages in the High Atlas Mountains, and buses blurting awful black smoke and tilting as they went by, their frames teetering on top of bent axles and barely supported by springs gone flat. This was one of the main thoroughfares of the old city. Weaving through it, on foot, were women in djellabas, heading to the vegetable souk nearby, veiled, the outline of their mouths in the black gauze of their veils, and men too, as well as clumps of boys and girls dressed in blue smocks on their way to school. Everyday Ben dragged his red Schwinn bicycle out of the house and locked the door behind him. The Peace Corps had issued him the bike. He felt lucky to get it, since there were only a few available. Indeed, he felt lucky in other ways too. He was one of only a handful of volunteers to be assigned to Marrakech, the most traditional city in Morocco’s south. He loved it. He was far from the capital city, far from the Peace Corps headquarters, and the only foreigner teaching at Koutoubia University . He had learned his way around the medina, one of the largest in the country, without even realizing how complex it was. He took in so much color, so much detail, that in three weeks he could find his way to almost any corner of it. He’d get on the bike and begin his trip to the school, through the western side of the medina. In the United States, Ben had been shy. He had no experience being seen or noticed, having always shied away from attention, his fear of embarrassment more than overwhelming his secret hopes for recognition. But herehewas, riding a one-speed, red, American-made Schwinn, with high chrome handlebars, a monster compared with anything made in Europe or Africa. People were aghast, staring at Ben and the bike, so odd in its size, color, and shape and, to their eyes, so laughably cumbersome. The children did laugh, point, and throw small stones at Ben, every morning, all along his route. But he didn’t mind it. He loved it. It did not, it could not, occur to him that people might be in any way hostile toward his presence. He had come to Morocco to help, to teach English, to be an agent of modernization and development. He had had choices, like all the people in his 12 Story One group of thirty-two volunteers. The United States in 1964 had a booming economy. Less than half of high school graduates went on to college, and virtually all those who finished had entry-level jobs in many fields for the asking, or...


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Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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