Friday, May 7, 2010

Friends from strangers

One of the things that I love most about being here in Morocco is finding people who hardly know me but are so kind and generous to me as if I was their own family. Never in my life have I felt hospitality to this degree from people who are nearly strangers.

A few weeks ago I started tutor a 15-year-old girl who is the daughter of my Moroccan mothers friend. Every Wednesday I get together with Fadwa to teach her English and week by week she is opening up more and more to me. Each week I walk over to Fadwa’s sisters house which is near mine. After studying English for about an hour Fadwa’s sister, Iman, always offers me tea and sweets. I have increasingly looked forward to spending time with Iman as she is one of the hospitable people I am talking about.

At 22 years old Iman has already been married for five years. Yes you’ve done the math right that means she was married at 17. She was arranged by her family with a man 15 years her senior. She is a generous, understanding, and polite young woman. She is able to communicate clearly with me using her five year old high school English. I have been very impressed that after so long not using what she had learned she usually can talk to me without skipping a beat. I can express myself to her and she can always understand.

But Iman is not only able to understand my words but my feelings as well. Last week we talked a little bit about religion, a subject I try to steer clear of normally, but with some people I know I am safe talking about it. When you are able to have conversations with people who are open-minded and understanding you can find out things that other people don’t take the time to ask.

This week I wanted to ask Iman for advice about how to deal with the unwanted attention I get everyday. Moroccan women deal with this everyday of their lives and in talking to them about it I know it will make me feel less alone. She was supportive of me and told me that I was right in ignoring all the attention that makes me uncomfortable. It’s nice to be able to vent to someone here who really understands what I am going through.

Iman gave me something of hers as a gift after only knowing me for three weeks. It is a small wood carved box. I told her that every time I look at it I will think of her forever. At the end of the day I like to think of moments like these to help push the negative moments far from my mind. The relationships that I form and the special moments that I share are truly going to be the things that are going to stay with me for a lifetime.