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August 19, 2008 Conversations

The last few days, I’ve been having more and more conversations with Ama. I mean, we talk every day, but often we don’t get far beyond “How do you feel?” and “Drink more tea.”

But in the past couple of days, we’ve talked about more and more topics, and I’ve been delighted to discover a growing facility with the language. I’d hoped to see this months ago, but I’m grateful that it’s here now.

My vocabulary is still limited, but I’m finding ways to express myself. Sign language always helps. :) I need to learn how to say “air” or “breathe” or both. (I’ve misplaced my Tam-English Dictionary, so I can’t just look it up.) When we were in the sbitar, Ama asked me about the oxygen machine, parked in the corner. I called it “oxygène”, figuring that that’s got to be the name the medical staff use for it (since college and graduate schools are conducted in French, most educated people think/work in French), and explained, “If there’s a problem with wind [since I had no idea of the word for air].” I then pantomimed breathing heavily and putting a mask on. Ama definitely understood me, though, because she explained it to the two women who arrived later. :)

We’ve also talked about independence, how it’s a cherished value in America – the idea of “standing on your own two feet” is pretty universally embraced, at least in my culture – and how bizarre it seems to a Moroccan woman, whose defines her life by her family relationships. (Example of the latter: As I’ve told you, “Rqiya” is one of the most common Berber names. Recently, there were three Rquiyas in my living room. Three. But a problem as common as this has to have a solution, and it does: there was “Rquiya tin Mohammed”, “Rqiya tin Said”, and “Rqiya Tamghart” – Rqiya who belongs to Mohammed, Rqiya who belongs to Said, and Rqiya the Old Lady. Nobody uses last names, but everyone knows exactly how everyone fits into a family.) An interesting side effect of this is that my Ama feels better when the PCV “Brahim” is in SouqTown the same time I am, because he’s hosted by her sister’s family (a few villages down the mountain), which makes him my cousin. More or less. And it’s always better to have family around.

So when I ran into a challenge recently, and was frustrated by my inability to resolve it myself, Ama was both mystified and a little indignant. “Why are you always trying to be strong by yourself?? You have a good family,” she said (meaning herself and my host father, not my American Mom & Dad), “So there’s no problem. No problem at all. We can help you.” She repeated, “You have a good family.”

And I do. :) More than one. :D

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