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Wednesday, May 14, 2008 Henna, cont.

The henna continues to catch eyes, mostly because it’s really beautifully done. (I have no modesty qualms about praising it, because all I had to do was sit there. The talent was all on the part of B**’s host sister, M**, who is an artist with plant-based dyes and a syringe. Yes, syringe. That’s how they apply it in such delicate lines: they take out the needle and use the narrow tip to dispense the henna.)

When I was hanging out at a tapas restaurant with a group of Trainees, some American tourists wandered by and chatted us up for a few minutes. We would have talked longer, but curfew is curfew. :) They noticed the henna, and asked for a closer look. I wondered for a moment if either or both of these guys were flirting with me – if they’d been Moroccan, it would have been downright naughty to ask to hold my hands, even for a moment – but then I remembered that these are Americans, from a culture where it’s entirely appropriate for men and women to hug in public.

Anyway, after they admired my hands, they asked where I’d gotten it done, and implied that they were interested in getting henna’d themselves. As I talked about it, I heard myself saying something I hadn’t consciously realized: “Henna is done as a gesture of friendship, usually when someone leaves or on momentous days (like weddings). I don’t think you’ll find anyone around here who will henna you for a price.” Before I said it, I hadn’t thought about it, and it made me all the more grateful for the gift M** had given me. Not only did she give me her time and her talent; this is also the gift of friendship, painted onto my hands for weeks to come. Like the tattoo on my back and the piercing on my tummy, this is a way of turning the body into a passport, stamped with important moments of life’s journey. The henna will fade, but the friendship that put it there is a gift for a lifetime. :)

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Think local. Act global. Learn more about the Peace Corps