And yes, that really happened.
He was kidding of course and I laughed, but upon closer examination it occurred to me that to a certain extent he was right. I certainly don’t have friends in town like I do in the Peace Corps or back in America.
For starters, I ‘hang out’ with at least 8 different men on a regular basis, between the Dar Chebab, the high school, and my counterpart. With the exception of my music class and my girls club, most of my Dar Chebab classes are male dominated. I often gossip and walk home with my high school girls, but in many ways I feel more like their semi-cool, American big sister. I can relate to the horrors and drama of being 16, but I’m actually 23 and I can tell the difference. My ‘neighbors’ are all boys under the age of 9. Sometimes I hang out with a women’s cooperative, but in the opposite fashion from the high school girls I can’t yet relate to having kids or lazy husbands.
The fact remains that most women my age are either married with several kids and more on the way, or they’ve left town to go to university or get jobs in big cities. What this all boils down to is that I don’t have very many good, solid, single, female friends in town.
And I suspect that for many female volunteers this is a common occurrence. There simply are not other single, female women who live alone in many of the places that the Peace Corps sends us to work. (So don’t worry Zaga pals you’ll never be replaced.)
In place of that however, would be the relationships that we develop with families.
I would say that most volunteers have at least one family that they consider ‘theirs.’ Be it their initial host family, mudir’s family, hanut guy’s family, student’s family, and in my case my fruit guy’s family.
Family ties are very strong in Morocco and often people prioritize time with their family above all else. For volunteers, understanding this notion of ‘family’ is something that I think is pertinent to integration. If you’ve got a good family, you’ll never find yourself lonely on Friday afternoons at lunch, hiding in your dar on L3id Kbir, or just hungry in general.
They’ll defend you. They’ll give you stuff that you don’t really want. They’ll inquire about your family in America. Ask about your work. Laugh at you and with you. Treat you like one of their own. And did I mention they’ll feed you?
I love ‘my family.’ 5 daughters, Ma, and Pop. They’re about as feisty and jovial as families come. I think I’ve taken such a liking to them because they remind me a lot of my immediate family and my extended family on my Mom’s side.
Last week I spent time with them over 3 separate days from shopping at souk in the city, to eating cous cous on Friday, and finally bringing in the Amazigh New Year while shredding some msmn for rifisa.
I haven’t gotten this much family time ever.