We were sitting in a traditional moroccan living room in Beni koulla village. The couches were orange and the tables were round. There was about 15 American students and 10 of Beni koulla’s residents. We were having an open discussion with the village women and a few little boys, when a girl in my group asked what the kids and the teenage girls in the room wanted to be wen they grow up.
“I don’t have a dream,” she said, “when I was still in high school I wanted to be in the Army, but since I’ve dropped out of school I don’t have a dream anymore. I’m just me.”
An 18 year old beautiful woman had just said that she didn’t have dreams. I couldn’t help but think of all the dreams I had when I was 18. At 18 I wanted to be a lawyer, a bestselling author, a broadcast journalist, and so much more. At 18 I wasn’t sure of a lot of things, but I sure did have dreams, and very big ones.
When I was little I wanted to get married at 23. I remember talking about it and trying to figure out how old my husband would be. When I shared the 23-year-old marriage idea with my American friends, they all thought I was insane. “Why would you want to get married so young?” “You have your whole life ahead of you,” they say. Over the years it has become clear to me that my American friends see marriage as the end to your “youth,” or simply the end to some kind of freedom. That is another example of how privileged my American friends and I are. The simple fact that marriage is somehow optional to us, where as for my host sister in the village marriage was the only way.
Her grandmother did it, her mom did it, she did it and her daughter will do it. My 18 year old sister in the village got married when she was 17. She showed me picture of her wedding. I felt so uncomfortable as I scrolled through her phone. I couldn’t help but notice that her mom was looking at her so proudly. Our little moment got interrupted by her crying baby — that’s right my 18 year village host sister is married and has a baby—she stood up and started walking back and forward with the baby wrapped on her back.
We stayed in the village for 5 days. I shared my host family with another girl from the group. Mama Naura, Silmah, Souhire, Mohamed, are the family members I met on my first night in the village. I later learned that I had another sister—whose name I forgot—and a dad who works in the city.
Mama Naura was my host mom, every afternoon she made bread, it was so so good. She then spent most of her time making “tsss tsss” sounds to shoo chickens out of the compound. She didn’t talk too much, at least not to me. Probably because she knew I wouldn’t understand what she would say. The most we ever talked was when we went peas picking on my first day in the village. Mama Naura, Marie and I went to the village garden. We picked peas for about 2 hours. Mama Naura explained to Marie and I how to know that a pea is ready to be picked. She was wearing an over sized long sleeve dress, had a small blanket around her hips and a pink hijab on her head.
When I wasn’t following mama Naura everywhere, I was either outside with Evan—we had our happy place in the village, a seat with a view into nature and the road—or watching Americans play soccer with younger Moroccan kids who were SO good.
We travelled a bit after the Village. I must say that I was happy to take a shower after five days with no shower. By the time we got back to Rabat I had so much work and a bunch of emails waiting for me.
The village stay was definitely a human touch experience.