There’s probably not much I hate more than being sick, so when I was bent over the Turkish toilet last week heaving up my insides, I couldn’t help but wonder what I’d gotten myself into – you know, running off to a foreign country and eating food that’s in the process of taming my stomach. In hindsight, it had to be that couscous I had the night before, but at the time (and something I’ve noticed for just about any time you’re sick), all you can really focus on is the desire to not be sick. It really does something to your emotions. In fact – and I think this was true for me in the States, too – the worst part about being sick isn’t so much the symptoms as it is what the symptoms can do to your psyche. And for me, I turn into a complete, whiny mama’s boy.
That said, I’ve never been so relieved in my life to find I had someone to comfort me while I was sick. When I got home and crashed in bed, Fatima felt my fever, brought me water, asked if she needed to go to the pharmacy, literally catering to my every need, even going as far as pacing frantically about the room saying my name out loud, “Fouad, Fouad, Fouad.” If that wasn’t “motherly” enough, she proceeded to tell me I ate too much the night before and that I needed to be wearing more layers of clothes when it’s so cold outside. At least, that’s what I think she said. Thanks, Mom.
Later that evening, she prepared a plate of food for me that was different from what everyone else ate (and more suitable to my stomach) and sent Khalil to get apple juice. By the end of the day, I was feeling much, much better. Sickness 1, accomplished… no blood in my stool and a very loving family to take care of me! Huzzah!
It shouldn’t be shocking, you know, when you go to another country and find yourself loved. Love is, after all, everywhere. But what is shocking, maybe, is how powerfully familial that love is here. I’m part of this family. They see me as one of them, despite my white awkwardness. As someone who was adopted, I have a real appreciation for that kind of immediate acceptance – that I was part of the family not out of my own merit but for no other reason than the fact that I’m human and residing under this roof.
So all this has really got me thinking about family, about parents, and about love. I grew up with the best parents anyone could ask for, really, but only because someone who couldn’t be the best parent decided she would pass me on to someone who could do what she couldn’t. A friend here mentioned to me that she thought I should be mad that my biological mother would “abandon” me, but I don’t see it like that at all. I never have. To me, loving someone can and often means saying “no” or letting them go, and that can be as important as being welcoming, accepting, and nurturing when it’s done in the right way. It’s all part of realizing that loving someone is always communal, or put another way, real love requires that our needs are met in multiple ways from multiple people. No one person can do it all for everyone, and the most successful relationships we have might be the ones where we know and accept our limits to provide for the other person or vice versa.
I guess that’s why I’m starting to really appreciate the value of loving each other like we are all adopted, all brothers and sisters, and I don’t mean that in some hippy, peace-loving way. Well, maybe I do. I just wonder how much differently I might treat someone who annoys me if I said to myself, “He’s my brother,” or, “She’s my sister.” I would still be annoyed with them, perhaps, but also keep the obligation to care for and cherish them. For some people, that’s easier than it is for others, though. Here’s, it’s often the Americans who test my patience, not the Moroccans.
As I said, my sickness didn’t last very long at all, thank God, and the next day, we traveled to Fes to explore the old Medina (an ancient market or city center of sorts) with its tanneries for dyeing cow, goat, sheep, and camel hides. I posted a video about that, but it’s brief, and quite honestly, I’m not too interested in spewing out details about it even though the weekend might have been the best time I’ve had in Morocco thus far. Sorry. Sometimes, I like keeping the best stuff to myself. That said, I will tell you briefly about my wake up call at 4:30 in the morning: we got a small hotel room just inside the gates of the old Medina. Most of them are like walled cities or castles with battlements fortifying the entire Medina. I’m getting off-track. As I was lying in bed, I heard the call to prayer louder than I had ever heard it. We must’ve been right next to the mosque. There are five “calls to prayer” each day, and Muslims have time between each call to pray. The morning prayer, obviously, begins before sunrise. The prayer is usually sung or chanted through a loudspeaker from a mosque and can be heard throughout the entire neighborhood or the city. Since, in larger cities, there are multiple mosques, you can sometimes hear multiple calls happening at the same time. I woke to a voice chanting, “B’smillah,” which means, “In the name of God,” and the prayer went on for nearly forty minutes. My Arabic is still pretty awful, but the general gist of the prayer is that “there is one God,” a phrase so central to both Christianity and Judaism (like the Shema), as well. Then, while the first call was happening, a second mosque began its call to prayer, and the two started to harmonize with one another (well as best as loudspeakers can), which may or may not have been intentional.
All of that is to say, especially in light of what I said earlier about love and adoption, that being face-to-face with a world that is absorbed in its religious duty brings the sacred to the forefront in every aspect of life. Nothing here happens without being filtered through those religious goggles, even if the “religiousness” of those goggles has, like it often has in Christianity, become more about tradition or social relationship. I, of course, don’t agree with every aspect of Islam, and I certainly don’t agree with every aspect of Christianity, but I see God in these people and the way they love and also in the way they devote themselves wholly to what they believe. We have something to learn from each other, despite our disagreements, even despite how religious we may or may not be. There’s this little family called Planet Earth, and whether or not the family gets along all the time, it’s obligated to try. So, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, start living like everyone around you is your family. It might just change a few things.