An hour before what happened to me in Morocco, remember what I told you about in my previous article. I got a text from a new local friend, “Are you ready?” For what I responded? To go for your 7:00? I paused looking at my phone confused. It was like one of those moments after a long night of drinking when you wake up the next morning wondering what happened? I couldn’t figure out why he was asking about the meet up. We had an awesome lunch and a wide ranging conversation but I don’t recall any of it about him getting me there. I’m not sure about showing up at the colleague’s friends’ house with another person in tow. He doesn’t know these people & I’m sure has better things to do than walk this crazy American across the street!
Side note: In this culture, (Morocco) Alcohol isn’t very available. You can get it though in Good Restaurants, Hotels, and in some supermarkets…But it’s somewhat difficult to find & Somewhat frowned upon. It’s just as well because everything is already confusing, I don’t dare add alcohol to the mix! Even without any alcohol, the constant state of confusion leaves me intoxicated most days.
I quickly dismiss the generous offer to escort me because it seemed silly for him to bother coming all the way to my apartment to basically get me across the street. Surely I should be able to manage to get myself 2 blocks on my own without an escort, right? (Hind sight: accept the generosity of the local Moroccan people. They are happy to do it and are invested in helping to silence the confusion. More on this subject later in My Morocco Experience…back to the story).
Perhaps not surprisingly, I first ended up in the wrong neighborhood. It was a perfectly comfortable experience on a quiet Sunday afternoon. There were lots of kids playing and women chatting outside the various doors. The make up of the neighborhood’s are a series of attached buildings with doors all special and unique. It was clear people knew that I wasn’t from there but it wasn’t unsafe. They stopped their conversations to look at me but we didn’t exchange words necessarily.
I noticed a kid followed me and stopped to show him the picture of the door and he shook his head. Then we both just stood there looking at each other, wordless, waiting for the other to make a move.
It was unclear if he knew the door or not, but because he changed directions I figured he was showing me the way so I followed. He quickened his pace but I kept up….then I began doubting myself. Is he showing me the way or I’m now just chasing this poor kid through his own neighborhood? He looked over his shoulder and his eyes made it clear that yup, he thought that I was going to kidnap him! I slowed down and tried to look natural.
Also, I tried to maintain some composure because the last few days for some reason I get myself into a fit of hysterical laughter…as if I needed any additional help looking absolutely insane?
Actually, I approached a group of women showing my “door photo” and one of them recognized it, mentioned with her hands and uttered a single English word, “next”. Ahhh..beautiful.. music to my ears A word I know! Great! I’m on my way!
I left that neighborhood and walked another block and saw an arch that matched another picture. Success! Though the arch, 4th door on the left the wall stripe was pink and the number 9 hung above the door. I found it!
Out came Meriam and she quickly escorted me in the house while merrily chatting non stop in French, but it could have been arabic and I’m sure I heard some Spanish words too. It was clear Google translate wasn’t going to be able to help because you have to be able to determine a single language to translate to another, there is no way it’s going to be able to deal with 3 languages in a sentence and spit out something that makes sense to me in English. Okay…this will be Interesting.
The interior of these houses are so cool. All kinds of conflicting pattern tiled walls, ornate upholstered couches lining all the perimeters of the adjoining big and small rooms. Every single light was turned on and the TV was blaring something in Arabic. A kid ran into the house and I recognized him from one of the Facebook photos of him in a hospital bed with some sort of eye/vision issues. Hi Youseff! Meriam introduced me to her Aunt. ‘Eimm’ she said. That was definately an arabic word that I recognized from my aunts visit the week before. Great..I grabbed my phone and set my Google translate to English to Arabic.
They were expecting me and had a tray with tea prepared. I could also smell spices drifting in from the kitchen of something cooking. Then, I unpacked my bag of goodies that I brought for them mint, bread, & some home made desserts.After, I was thanked and shown to one of the rooms to sit down. I sat quietly in the room with the elderly aunt, silent.
The kid walked in and sat down between us. I grabbed the phone to see if I could use it to spark a conversation. I soon switched to photos and that was more interesting. We went through each picture with him asking questions in Arabic and me answering in English.
Id love to be a fly on the way (a bi lingual fly that is) and know how close we were to actually communicating with each other. The photos weren’t in any reasonable order so my side of the conversation went something like this:
- I live here
- I made this for dinner last night
- Here is a picture of my home
- This is a sign in Rabat that I meant to ask someone to translate
- I like cats
I have no idea what he was talking about but there was a questioning sound in his voice with every new picture. So hopefully my words related to his questions. Who knows!
More and more food kept coming from the kitchen and I was lead into the larger room. They told me to sit down at the table and gave me a roll of toilet paper. Huh?
Another side note: 2 nights before I shared a fabulous traditional couscous dinner in the home of a friend Salah Eddine. They Serve Traditional Couscous on Fridays in a big communal bowl that the family eats from together using their hands vs silverware. There is a strategy and technique that is of course very natural for them but confusing for me.
You basically take a small amount in your right hand and ball it up in your fingers into a small meatball size and neatly pop it in your mouth. When I do it however, it doesn’t look anything like that! The snow-like couscous might give one the impression that you can turn it into a snow ball. But any pressure made the damn thing explode in my hand in route to my mouth, sending tiny specs of couscous into the air, on the table, in my lap, & in my hair.
I’m like a gigantic 2 year old learning to eat. His mother noticed and dashed to the kitchen. No one else at the table needed “protection” in the form of a napkin but in my case she covered me with a tablecloth.
Remembering that experience, I figured the toilet paper was for me because the American eating with her hands was probably going to require lots of paper to clean things up…at least that’s my interpretation of giving me a toilet paper roll at the dinner table.
I had a Great experience, and we started to say our goodbyes. They suggested more than once not walking at night, alone, etc… but again… it’s basically 2 blocks and across the street.
I’m not going to take a cab and I’m not justifying sleeping over, which would surely be offered. I was determined to leave and we agreed Yousoof would take me.
I’m not sure what protection this 12 year old with an eye issue was offer more than my own abilities to protect myself but I gladly took the gracious offer and followed him out of the neighborhood.
His pace quickened and I followed. I’m reminded about the kid I chased earlier and feared someone might see me chasing this kid too. I hope all the kids in the neighborhood think I’ll chase them!
What a day! I’m happy to be “home” safe & sound for a great night sleep and work day tomorrow!