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4/14 Ait Merikan

Introductory note. In Tamazight, "Ait" means "Tribe of" and/or "Family of" - there's really no distinction in the concepts. In Darija, nobody refers to the US as anything other than "Merikan." America = Merikan. Meh-ree-kan. As a new arrival, I kept thinking they were saying "American", not "America", but eventually I figured it out. In Tamazight, they've adapted the Darija "Merikan" to "Ait Merikan": The Tribe of America. I come from the Family of America. :)

This afternoon, Ama and I went over to have tea with my 3tti - the mom of the cousin who was arrested on suspicion of mugging. He was recently exonerated, so Ama told me that I should bring 3tti a cone of sugar. It's a traditional gift, brought to weddings, funerals, baby-naming ceremonies, and pretty much every other occasion where you expect someone will do a lot of entertaining and will need to have a lot of sugar. (Because every visitor needs tea, right, and every pot of tea requires a good cup or two of sugar...right? Right.)

So off I went, cone of sugar in hand.

We had a nice visit with 3tti, though she spent most of it fluttering about, chastising Ama for not warning her that I'd be coming over, and thus not giving her a chance to prepare cookies and cakes and other treats for the fancy visitor. It still bugs me that she sees me as the fancy visitor, and I kept assuring her that the bread and oil and cup-o-tea were **really** all I needed, but she kept fluttering anyway. She found cookies squirreled away, so brought those out. She dug out some stored peanuts and almonds that she put out on a plate for us. She made aHrir, the macaroni-like pasta dish that's often served at teatime.

Every time she brought out something else, I begged her to sit down and rest, but she kept buzzing back to the kitchen.

So Ama and I got a nice chat, which I'll write more about later. (Or not...we talked about some fairly personal things, which I found fascinating - and assume my culturally curious readers will, too - but which maybe I shouldn't share. Hm. I'll keep thinking about that.)

When 3tti finally stopped her impression of a hummingbird on crack, and sat down with us, she began issuing instructions. She's the family matriarch, since the death of my Mahallu two summers ago, and she takes it seriously.

But I couldn't take anything she said seriously, because she started her lecture with, "When you go back to --" she paused and turned to Ama. "Where's she from again?"

"Ait Merikan."

"Right, when you go back to Ait Merikan, you need to..."

I smiled and nodded, but paid only as much attention as I needed to in order to be able to respond with the appropriate (vague, unbinding) phrases.

She doesn't know where I'm from.

I've lived in her town, with her brother-in-law's family, for two years, and she doesn't know where I'm from.

More to the point, she doesn't remember the name of America.


The only remaining superpower. (Well, except China.) The most powerful country in the world.


She couldn't remember its name.

Last week, a buddy of mine discovered that his Moroccan neighbors had never heard that the Earth goes around the Sun. He spent a week goggling about that, but it didn't surprise me that much. Most of our neighbors are illiterate, living lives that haven't changed much since the times of the Pharoahs...not knowing that the Sun doesn't orbit the Earth? Yeah, that fits. But this one took my breath away.

She doesn't know the name of America.

Welcome to the third world, wide-eyed innocent....

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