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4/25/10 QOTD: "So, are you Ali's wife?"

I've been meaning to write this blog for a looooooooong time. Almost a year.

Last May, I visited my PCV buddy "Ali". He's one of my very oldest PCV friends - we met in Philadelphia, and were hanging out even before we flew to Morocco. But this was the first time I'd made it out to his site.

His is a hike-in site, so after I'd taken the requisite buses and taxis and such to his nearest decent-sized town, he met me at a cafe and walked me the half-hour uphill walk to his house. (And this being a Moroccan town, as opposed to a city, my enthusiastic and warm greeting after 12 hours of traveling to see him consisted of ... a handshake. In a city I could hug him, but in a town, that would raise too many eyebrows.)

As we walked, we stopped to chat ... oh, must have been at least a dozen times. Ali is friendly and outgoing, plus he lives near a tourist town where half the folks speak English (and are always looking to practice it!), so he's developed warm friendships with ... everybody, apparently.

And every time we stopped, the first question he got, in either English or Tamazight, was, "Oh, is this your wife?"

Sometimes they'd address it to me: "So, are you Ali's wife?"

He's lived in this place for a year. Been chatting with these guys for a year. Don't you think they'd know if he had a wife?

And for that matter, I'm the third female PCV who's come to visit him. Do they think he's that big a philanderer? And that his American wife would have left him alone for a year?

I couldn't find any logic by which it would make sense that they'd think I was his wife.

This was before I'd fully understood the need of folks here to place people in family networks.

Whoever had gotten the question, we'd both laugh, and shake our heads. It wouldn't work to say "We're friends" - the concept of cross-gender friendship doesn't exist here, so they'd think we were confirming a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship. So we tried other options. "We work together." "We've known each other a long time." "We're both Peace Corps Volunteers." Of course, none of these necessarily rule out being married, but they do present other relationships...none of which make as much sense as marriage.

But once folks had accepted that no, we're not married, they'd usually follow it up to Ali with, "So is this your sister?"

By the time we'd fielded these questions for the 5th time, I was ready to say "Yes" and let it go. If they seemed to want more, I'd say, "Just like his sister," or "He's just like a brother to me," but they were often happy to drop it once they had a familial category to drop me in.

We look enough alike to fool someone who doesn't see too many foreigners. We both have reddish hair and pale eyes (mine blue, his green). That's enough to be family, right? :)

I've said before that I'm a terrible liar, and it's true - but calling Ali my brother didn't feel like a lie. Cheezy though it may sound, I do see Peace Corps as one big family. Ali is like a brother to me.

But definitely not a husband.

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