November 23, 2010 § 1 Comment
I’ve been intending to write about my experiences in the farming community since I got back to Rabat on Friday. But Tevye the milkman said it best in 1971:
A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no? But here, in our little village of Anatevka, you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn’t easy. You may ask ‘Why do we stay up there if it’s so dangerous?’ Well, we stay because Anatevka is our home. And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: tradition!
Ok, so Sidi Abd el Aziz wasn’t a Jewish peasant town sporadically breaking into song. But none the less, there were deeply rooted traditions in all aspects of daily life.
I can’t think of a time when there were too many birds and not enough rocks. Nevertheless, life in rural Morocco depends upon resourcefulness, efficiency, and the ability to kill multiple birds with minimal stone. For example:
- when you take a trip to the community well to get the daily supply of water, you should also start the fire for bread.
- Instead of throwing out old stereo batteries, reuse the acidic insides to paint the walls grey
- Use the same buckets for everything from holding raw chicken, to drinking water, to children. Use the same 2 knifes to cut bread, sheep, chop vegetables, scrape plaster off metal doors, open cupboards, check on the inside of a cake, take henna off hands, and countless other necessities.
- Show affection and modesty. The mother would constantly give me hugs and kisses, ostensibly to make me feel welcome but simultaneously to pull down on the bottom end of my shirt until it reached well past my butt.
Soukaina’s story is an interesting one. Her father only went to a few years of primary school while mother never went to school at all. Her 3 older brothers have all had varied education but none exceeding secondary school. They all still live at home and work on the farm to help put Soukaina through school. Her older sister was not as fortunate. She, like her mother, was married at 17 and now has 3 children.
I met many girls with uncertain futures. What can I say to them? Somehow I don’t think it would rock their world to say “I’ve read Morocco’s new Family Code cover to cover!” Yesterday, I went to a conference on “Trajectories of Women” hosted by UNESCO and a women’s group from Belgium. It has been said that the pen is mightier than the sword, and surely we, the privileged academics and scholars and critics, are the vanguard of women’s studies. But as we discussed some very pertinent topics of cultural integration, immigration, access to education, all with a background of gender inequality, my mind was drifting back to my new friends along the Sebou River. I thought of Najima, a girl my age but assuming the role of a mother. I thought of Soukaina’s mother who has never had the ability to form ideas in her head and write them out on paper. I thought of the young girl whose parents divorced: her father’s new wife will not let him pay for anything concerning his first marriage and her mother’s new husband does not work. She now lives with her grandparents and will never go to school. I thought of Soukaina’s high school friend, who had access to education until her mother died, and now she is the last of her three sisters that her father has promptly married off to men in their 30s and up. I think of all of them and wonder how sitting in a conference room on a Monday afternoon will help.
I’m off to Spain. Be back Sunday. Happy Thanksgiving