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July 31, 2008 The Rumors of My Love Life are Greatly Exaggerated…

The last time I stayed in SouqTown, I ran into some friends of my little brothers at our hotel. I chatted with them for a few minutes in the hallway outside the bathroom, but slipped away when their dad came over, since I was in a tank top (dressed for bed), which is Hshuma. (I had my towel wrapped around me, since I had been on my way back to my room from the shower, but still.)

The next morning, the boys and their dad walked past the open door to my room, and one of the little guys recognized me and called out my name. The dad didn’t break pace, but I saw his head turning as he passed the door.

I cringed inwardly, because I realized that he’d see the PCV in the next bed over…who was a guy. The hotel that PCVs always patronize has big dorm-style rooms with three or four beds in them. The buhotels always charge us 30DH apiece, whether we’re in a room alone or if all the beds are filled. They just pack the Volunteers in, unless there’s more than four, in which case we get another room. Of course, if we ever asked for a separate room, they’d gladly give us one – I don’t mean to imply anything ungenerous. Both of the two buhotels are kind, thoughtful men who have done us countless favors and services over the years. In fact, asking the buhotel if there’s already a Volunteer in the hotel is the easiest way to find out if you’re alone in the city or if you’ll have company for dinner. :)

For the most part, we pack ourselves in like sardines, mostly because it’s more fun to hang out with other PCVs than to rattle around in a hotel room alone.

Prior to this moment, it hadn’t occurred to me to mind that the rooms are nearly always coed. I had coed dorms in college and have had many guy roommates over the years (I’ve had almost 50 roommates altogether, and at least a dozen have been men), so I really didn’t give a second thought to our sleeping arrangements… Until I realized that someone from BerberVille would have seen me sharing a room with a man.


I told my friends what had happened – there were actually 3 other PCVs in the room at the time, but the other two were at an angle where they wouldn’t have been seen from the hallway – and they all assured me that no one would think anything of it. We were in separate beds, several feet apart, and besides, no one would ever report back in BerbervVille what they’d seen in SouqTown. (What happens at Souq stays at Souq.)

I’m not so sure.

Especially because now my host family has taken to teasing me about the boyfriend I must have in SouqTown. Why else would I go out there so often? I’ve sworn up and down that I don’t have a man (ur ghori aryez) – doesn’t work. I’ve explained that I’ve always been a good girl (du nishan) – makes no difference. I’ve explained that my tutor and my work counterpart both live there – no use. Also, just in case the story of the hotel room did get back to my family, I explained to Ama and Xalti how the SouqTown Hotel housing works. They both thought that coed rooms are a bad idea, but were appeased at the knowledge that when there are more than 4 of us, we do split into two rooms, and usually by gender. I said (repeatedly) that we all sleep – just sleep – not “sleep together”. (Thank goodness our language training covered that euphemism, which is pretty much identical in Tam as in English.)

Ama and Xalti still didn’t let up on teasing me about having an asmun – a boyfriend – in SouqTown. [You know what just occurred to me? They’re right. I do have an asmun who I go see. Lots of them. Asmun just means male friend. It’s just a cultural interpretation that makes male friend = boyfriend. Oh, well.] I tried a different line of defense: I told them that if I get pregnant, Peace Corps will fire me and send me back to America. “That would be a big problem. I don’t want a problem. So I don’t want a man. If I don’t have a man, I won’t have a problem. Understand?” My language is limited, but I can make myself clear. And they did understand.

Later that day, all of the girls & women of the household were hanging out in my room, admiring the skirts in my latest care package from Mom. Xalti hadn’t noticed my stuffed hippo before, and I thought of something. I’d told the little girls when they first played with him that he was my asmun (I do sleep with him, after all), and they’d gotten a big laugh out of it. I now told Ama and Xalti that he’s my asmun. “See? No problem at all.” I gave him a big squeezy hug (he’s terribly huggable, which is why he’s shared my bed since I was 10), then a kiss, and then I handed him to Ama so that she could hug him.

She made a big show of looking between his fuzzy back legs. (Don’t worry, he’s not anatomically correct.) “OK, no problem at all,” she agreed, handing him back to me with a big twinkle in her eye. I buried my blushing face in my hands and laughed. I’ve always blushed easily, which is helpful here when I never know if I’m supposed to be shocked or entertained by naughty jokes; I figure I can’t go wrong by making a show of how Hshuma they seem to me to be.

I’m due to go back to SouqTown in a couple days, for a dentist appointment. (The appointment is actually in Springfield, but I have to go through SouqTown to get there.) We’ll see if the jokes start back up…

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