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August 17, 2008 Welcome to the World, Baby Cuz!

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight walk of Auntie Dear…

Here’s the story as recounted in Tamazight and translated back into English. (One of my ongoing challenges for myself is to record stories – more or less blog entries – for my Tamazight tutor. I then read them to her, and she corrects them with me. Since Tam is an oral language, she doesn’t care about my spelling – there are no misspellings in an oral language! – but if there’s an important vocab word missing or if I make a mistake severe enough to impair understanding of the meaning, she’ll show me how to correct it. Little mistakes she gracefully ignores, knowing (or at least hoping) that they’ll work themselves out in time. (Like my pronunciation of the ‘ain, the letter I usually represent with a 3 when I’m typing Tamazight words. I know I say it differently than Moroccans do, which to me means that I’m still saying it wrong. She says that it’s just different, not wrong. When I say it, I sound like I’m being strangled. When she says it, it sounds like her throat is tight with anger. Those are different.)

Anyway, here’s the story. Please forgive the choppy sentence structure and limited vocabulary:

At 2:30am, I heard knocking at my door. “Yes?” I said. “Kawtar!” someone said. I woke up, stood up, and opened the door. It was Ama. “What’s going on?? What happened?” I asked her. “We’re going to the hospital!” she said. I didn’t understand. She said it to me again. “Xalti is giving birth. The baby is going to come. Put on your clothes and let’s go,” she explained.

At 2:40, we found Xalti on the path to the hospital. She was going, she was standing still. She was walking, she was stopping. She was stopping every minute and a half. It was dark, but I could see that she was in labor. There was a full moon – every month, many babies come on the full moon!

We walked to the hospital. When we arrived, it was closed. Of course. With my cell phone, I called the hospital’s phone number and the doctor’s phone number… Nothing. Ama knocked on every door and window of the hospital. Nothing.

At 3:00, everything was the same. Ama was knocking, I was calling the doctor, Xalti was in labor. Then, Nurse Fatima came to the door. LHumdullah! We went to the delivery room, but Ama and I stayed only a little bit before Fatima made us leave. We waited in the big room [the waiting room]. Later, Nurse FaHd came to the hospital, to help. Ama and I waited more. When I closed my eyes, Ama asked me, “Do you want to go back home and go to sleep?” I said to her, “No, I’m praying*.” She didn’t understand. “I’m talking to God. About Xalti,” I explained. She understood.

At a quarter to 5, she called her friend. Her friend came, with her mother. While the three women talked, I prayed a lot. Then, at 5:15, the baby came!** We waited a little more, while Fatima and FaHd cleaned the baby. Then, Ama went to the delivery room in order to help. She gathered everything that had Xalti’s blood on it. I greeted the baby.

Later, Ama and I went to the home of a taxi driver. We woke up his wife, who told us, “He’s not here.” Ama said to me, “That’s a problem!” I asked her, “Why won’t the ambulance take Xalti and the baby to our house?” “Because Berberville is bad!” she answered.

It was cold, so Ama said to me, “Go to the hospital. I’ll come back later.” So, I went to the hospital. I asked Fatima, « Pourquoi on ne peut pas utiliser l’ambulance pour prendre Xalti chez lui? » She said it was possible, if there was no taxi. I wanted to ask, “Why does she need a taxi if there’s an ambulance??” but I didn’t say anything. [Turns out that even though all hospital services are free, you have to pay for the ambulance, and it’s comparable in price to what it is in America, ie well beyond the means of nearly everyone.]

Later, Ama found a man who owns a car; he brought us to our house. When all the children had seen the baby and I knew that everything was fine, I went to my room in order to sleep. The baby is good…the mama is good…lHumdullah!

* I have since learned that there are two different words for praying. The one I used, zal, refers to the five ritualized prayers each day, and means both addressing words to God and standing, kneeling, prostrating, etc. No wonder Ama was confused; I was sitting still. There’s another word, d3u, which means talking to God (or requesting something from God) without going through the physical motions of Muslim prayer. It’s from classical Arabic, though, and when I’ve tried to use it, I haven’t been understood except by highly educated people.

** The word that my family used for this is fgh, which usually means exit or go out. And the baby was definitely exiting the womb, so it makes sense, but it still surprised my tutor when we read through this story together, so maybe it’s just a local usage.

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