Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Gift of Giving

When we went to the little school outside of it was a wonderful experience. The staff was so personable and willing to connect with us. I honestly think they were as curious about us as we were about them. As we were exiting the school they had put together a wonderful display of tarts and that wonderful mint tea. It was elegantly served in the traditional manner. No detail was spared. When I entered the room I felt it was important to reciprocate their welcoming gesture by greeting them in my broken arabic. "Ana ismee Sylvia, wa anti?" I am Sylvia, and you? "Tacharafna." Nice to meet you. Well, when I got to the last person at the table, I was feeling a little more comfortable and thought I'd give a complement to engage her in a conversation. I pointed to the broche on Soura's scarf and said "Jamela!" I thought maybe she'd say thank you for telling her it was beautiful. She immediately reached for the broche and gave it to me. I said no thank you. She insisted and began to try to pin it on me. We went back and forth a few times. Maceo and Unice told me that if I did not accept it she would be offended, although it took everything in me to accept it, I did.

To be quite honest I was embarrassed. This was such a selfless gesture on Soura's part, but how could I take it. I struggled with this all day.

Then the next day, we went toward the Atlas mountains. It was quite a trek. After a few hours on the mountainous trail the but broke down due to overheating. Some of us stayed on the bus, the others went to venture outside. I of course took my camera to take a picture of the Marrakech sign that was also in arabic for my kids. The tour guide went to a nearby house, knocked on the door, and asked the Berber family if we could stay awhile with them to escape the heat until the bus was up and running. They accepted.

We look liked the "Seven Dwarfs" from "Snow white" all of us walking to the house in a line. Upon entering the property one is confronted with a rural Berber house. They had a donkey in the front yard. As you walk along the pathway, it leads you to a courtyard and to the right was a door. Everyone began to take off their shoes, so I did too. Inside there were only rugs on the floor and pillows for us to sit on. A few minutes later the Berber woman was serving that glorious tea that was the best I had ever had. She smiled and tried to talk to us. With gestures, smiles, and some word we were able to get some ideas across. She showed us how she made fresh bread in her wood burning stove. She also also asked very sweetly as she grabbed my chin, "Berber?" I told her La, no I am not Berber. About 20-30 min later she offered us rabbit and fresh baked bread. We refused at first, but when she started to make that sad face, we immediately changed our minds and stayed. "Score!" It was delicious! When we left, she hugged us and gave us kisses, I got four on each cheek and a big hug.

As I was leaving, I was again struck by her extreme generousity. I wanted to give her something, but What? I was walking back to the bus with my head low. Aahhh, I told Sherry, I forgot something, I'll be right back. I ran back to the house and I handed Jamela, the daughter one of my blue bracletes, and I did the same with the Berber Mom. I kept one for myself.

Now it all makes sense, when I gave that bracelette it was like giving a gift to myself. Every time I look at Soura's brooche or my lonely blue bracelet I remember them. Just like Soura said when she gave me the brooche, to remember.

Sylvia Bell

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