When walking down an alley way in Azrou a man walked by me and my friends and said “hello how are you.” Usually I ignore people saying anything to me as I walk by, but then my friend said hi back. He then asked us where we were from. This then led into a 30 minute conversation. This man was Ali and he spoke very good English. We talked about Morocco and America which then led into Americans’ views on Muslims. He then asked if all Americans are afraid of Muslims. When he asked that question my heart broke. Here was Ali, a father of 2 with a kind soul, asking me the questions I’ve been dreading to hear. “Are Americas afraid of Muslims???”
Here I am in Morocco, a country where 95% of the people are Muslim. Where the Moroccan government has asked us Americans to come and help their youth. A country where I have felt nothing but love. Where the hospitality is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. A country where when I hear the call to pray I am reminded there is something bigger than me. And our President has decided to instill fear in Americans, that Muslims are people to be fearful of. So in honor of Thanksgiving, I am here going to give thanks to Moroccans. To share times when I have been so thankful for the people that I have met in just the 2 months I’ve been here…
First my language teacher is Hamind. Six days a week for 6 hours a day Hamind is teaching my fellow CBT mates and I Darija. Teaching a language to someone is hard enough, especially when it’s your first time and you’re fresh out of college like Hamind. Now add the pressure of teaching 6 Americans a language so they can survive, that is a whole different ballgame. Not only is he our language teacher, but he’s our cultural teacher. Teaching us about the culture of Morocco and the does and don’t so we don’t do anything stupid. He also helps us translate things when we just have no idea what we are trying to say. He’s basically our parent, teaching us how to go from toddlers to adults. And all of this in a 2 month span so we can survive and be successful in our 2 years of service. Needless to say I’m extremely grateful for Hamind!
Then there’s that time I got sick and my aunt made me rice oatmeal for dinner. That meant my 12 other family members had to eat oatmeal for dinner too because the meals here are communal. All because my family wanted to make sure I was well fed and feeling good.
For all the Moroccan Mamas who have had me in their homes for tea and kaskort!
When I had to go around my community and ask for help on my homework. Everyone I talked to was so patient as I stumbled on my words. There was even a time I asked the guy working at the “7aunt” (store) for help and everyone around become so intrigued. Before I knew it I had a whole crowd around me helping me with my homework. Every single one of them say “Marhiba”, “Morocco welcomes you!”
Walking down the street as the girls from the Dar Tileba running up screaming “hello, I love you, your so zween (pretty)”.
The man at the bookstore got so excited that I was speaking in Darija he gave me a little Moroccan keychain.
The time I went to the 7ammam (public bath house) and laid flat on stomach and then my back while Maggie’s (another PCV) sister, Sona, scrubbed the dirt off every inch of my body.
For Malika (Peace Corps staff) coming with us ladies to help us bargain for fabric. To then translate to the tailor what we wanted.
The lovely tailor who made my Jillabodor. And every time I’ve stopped in her shop she has had a treat waiting for me. Either a bowl full of dates, fresh apples, or a loaf of bread fresh out of the oven.
For all of the Peace Corps Morocco staff!!!
And of course, I am thankful for my host family!!! For my host parents giving up their room for me. For my host Dad buying me little snacks from the 7uant (store). For my host Mom telling me that I don’t need to be shy about treating her home as if were mine in America. For my bother Anas always saying “I’m Moroccan and your American and your my friend!” For Niza always telling me the names of every food and table wear during meals. For little Doha always putting a smile on my face. For all of them keeping me safe. For making sure I feel so loved. For feeding me and washing my clothes. For being so patient as I went from only saying “hello”, “yes” and “no”, to slowly being able to put together a sentence. Words can’t describe how thankful I am for them.
And lastly for Ali from Azrou. Even after asking whether Americans are afraid of Muslim he insisted we take his number, saying if we are ever in any trouble to call him. That the next time we are in Azrou we will have to have tea together.
For many years our country has had a rocky, complex relationship with Muslim countries. And unfortunately many Americans have been told the same stories. Like that so many Muslims are terrorists we should be cautious even fearful. But as I stood there talking to Ali, a man who I had only just met, a man who was telling us if we ever needed help to call him, a man who just wants to sit and exchange culture over tea, I’m reminded of what Peace Corps is also about, sharing my experience with MY fellow Americans. So here I am sharing the time I have felt so beyond grateful for the acts of kindness I have received here in a country of 95% Muslims.