morocco: green fields, blue walls, warm hearts

16 Oct

Morocco

On September 16th, Lucas and I went to Chefchauen, Morocco. It was there that we explored the blue Medina. During the late 15th century, the Spanish Inquisition forced Muslims and Jewish people out of Europe. Beginning in 1471, Chefchaouen was founded essentially as a refugee camp with a prominent Jewish influence. Following the Jewish traditions, the people painted their buildings blue as a reminder of the God’s power above.

The region is also famous for its massive marijuana fields for as far as the eye can see. We had 24 hours to explore this city so our main goal was to go to the village where they grown the marijuana to see it for ourselves. As we walked along the main pathway through the barns and houses, having locals point us in the right direction (whether it was the right direction or them telling us to get off their property, I am unsure), we came to a home where a woman was feeding her chickens and goats. She smiled brightly at us with a missing tooth. We asked with sign language, “can we take a picture of the chickens?” We weren’t clear enough because she, in sign language and some Arabic, told us that we can have a chicken, they are yummy. We smiled and rubbed our tummys and said thank you and laughed. She laughed. I could feel that she was a lovely person; kindness and warmth radiated from her.  We went on to our journey to the end of the road and took more mind blowing pictures of these fields. When we decided to walk back down the mountain to the cab that was waiting for us for only one hour, we passed this same home again only this time, the husband was there. We peeked around the corner and smiled at them again. To our amazement, the husband had a massive bale of fresh cut marijuana and using only gestures, called for us to come and see his bale of weed in the back of his truck.

We immediately noticed his hands; they were dark and sticky and covered in resin from the plant. He let us feel them and we smiled, and laughed. Then he waved us over to his big bale of Marjiuana. I pointed to my camera and he nodded “yes” but then pointed to his face and turned it away. I get it: no pictures of the people, and that is understandable. I took some pictures carefully cropping him out and showed it to him out of respect so that he felt that he could trust me. He gave me the thumbs up and we laughed. They let us stand there watching them work while we tried to communicate, all the while they smiled. I just now notice that I keep referring  to their smiles but that is what I truly remember; they were so warm, so welcoming, they were so humble. All of a sudden, the husband brought Lucas to the back of the house and I stood there smiling with the wife. Usually, I would feel a bit shy perhaps, or uncomfortable but I had no reason to be. I just stood there smiling with the wife, looking at the chickens thinking, “I bet they kill them. I bet that chicken has no idea what’s coming at 5:00pm.” I chuckled to myself.

The husband’s head popped out from around the corner and waved me to the back of the house as well. I got this feeling, this excitement in my chest. I felt honoured to be welcomed and I smiled and skipped to the back of the house. While the husband and Lucas went upstairs inside the house, the wife took me and said some things in Arabic. I stood there and pointed from me to her and then from me to the stairs where the boys went up. I was trying to communicate, “do I come with you or do I go with them?” She smiled and shook her head and tried again to tell me something. I said something back in English, she shook her head and said something in Arabic. At that time we both shrugged our shoulders and we bent over laughing because we both knew we didn’t understand a word or gesture from one another and yet, in Africa, standing amongst chickens and a rooster in this family’s yard and not having a single clue as to what was wanted of me, I felt completely at ease. It was their total trust in us and their gentle, smiling faces.

She finally pointed to the stairs and gestured for me to go there. When I walked in I found myself in a Moroccan family living room. I immediately felt humbled. We had been invited into someone’s home. The hazy sun was shining through the middle of the room as traditional Moroccan living rooms are rectangular in shape with an open roof in the middle. The husband tugged on his shirt and said “whew” and rolled his eyes and smiled, signifying that he was hot. He put a finger up to say “one minute” and left the room. Lucas and I looked at each other and started whispering. Why? I don’t know, it was just one of those times that whispering felt like the thing to do. We asked each other what was going on and decided to go with it. We felt welcomed, not in any danger so why not?

 The husband went to the bathroom and began washing. At one point I thought he was taking a shower. He washed his face, changed his clothes, and washed his hands. Just as he was finishing his washing, a beautiful and unexpected thing happened: his wife come through the opening with a tray. On the tray there was a large, round loaf of bread and two small dishes containing mushrooms and olives. Lucas and I looked at each other and our faces sank: we have 10 minutes to run down the mountain and catch our cab. We did not know that bread was to be broken and in Moroccan traction, nothing takes a quick couple of minutes. We knew we had to go. I can not explain in words how my heart broke at this. Here was a poor family that saw us walking down the road and invited us into their home. They prepared what little food they had and had washed up to break bread with us.

The worst part about it was that Lucas and I decided in that moment that we should offer them something to say thank you. All we had was Duram (Moroccoan money) on us. Lucas took out 200 Duam (about 20 euros) and handed to the husband. He shook his head and refused. It was only after Lucas put it away that they shook our hands, smiled, and put his other hand to his heart. My heart only sank further.

Today, as I write about this story, I feel the same heaviness in my body and my heart as I did that day. Without being able to say “We have to go but can we come back?” or “we want to stay but can not,” it must have looked like we didn’t want their food, and just walked out. We tried so hard to say “taxi” and Lucas tied to write it on his phone with a translator but I am unsure if they understood. In fact, I’m unsure of it all, other than my wish is to visit this village again, go back with a hired translator and a loaf of bread to share. To have a poor family invite us in and want to share food and break bread with us, for nothing, other than to do it. I was shown a part of Morocoo and humanity that day that I will not one day forget. I will think of this family often and when I have the chance to show others the same warmth and hospitality as this family so easily showed us, I will do so.

A piece of me is with this family and they have no idea.

M 2

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One Response to “morocco: green fields, blue walls, warm hearts”

  1. Jessie October 17, 2013 at 2:44 am #

    Oh this one is really touching. Beautiful little story from your travels. I think it means you must go back one day!

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