Friday, 4 January 2008

A neighborly visit

A neighborly visit

Returning from the Medina (bank and food) I met one of my neighbors from next door. We acknowledged greetings and she then went on to carry on a conversation with me that I did not understand but did acknowledge with smiles and nodding my head in agreement.

About an hour later, Ouiwa came to my door, asked if she could come in, and presented me with a gift! She had taken a frilly, silvery and gold garland and wrapped it around a piece of dark brown pottery and inside was a long string of colored wooden beads and a necklace of red and white linear beads that the lady on the corner sells to the tourists. To say I was shocked is an understatement. Now some of my neighbors have brought food to my door during Ramadan, but they just handed it in and beat a hasty retreat. I think most of them, even though they find it very odd, know that I am a loner.

I know from our time in Fez that Moroccan women are so good at nothing as much as they are at visiting. I do not speak the language but I am an adept at intuitive translation. Once when we had attended a wedding in Fez, one of the wedding party came to Q and told her what a nice long conversation we had – much to Q’s surprise. “How do you do that?” she asked.

“Years of practice my dear.” I can, it’s true, converse with almost anyone in any language, within certain common areas of course. The down side is that this method is exhausting as it requires paying rapt attention to body movements, posture, facial expressions, hand movement, and eye contact. We don’t notice how little we actually have to pay attention in our normal day-to-day conversations within our own environments. When I speak Spanish and the other languages that I have some small proficiency with I have to pay closer attention true, but nothing like when I have no idea what they are saying verbally.

I can tell you that my neighborhood is a widow. She lives with her brother and his wife, as well as her son and his family. Her son is the father of the neighborhood baby, the one who gives out the kisses. She is a grandmother and she has diabetes. She has some leaks in her house because of the rain as well, and thinks I should take my towels that I used to catch my own leaks up to the roof to dry. She thinks it is very good that Q has gone to America for school, but sad that I live in this whole house by myself – an alien concept in Morocco I assure you. She thinks I must be lonely.

And I can tell you I am exhausted now. She caught me in the midst of writing a report for a friend of mine and I had to compartmentalize the thought process I had been pursuing in order to give my full attention to the conversation. I think she caught my drift when I explained that I needed to get back to work and that I am leaving shortly on another trip.

It was a very brief visit by Moroccan standards but for me – the hermit who likes her socialization planned and away from home – it was longer. I am not one who enjoys chit chat. I like an agenda and purpose.

What a kind gesture it was and one I appreciate. Just another day in the Kasbah Oudayas that reinforces the fact that kindness and neighborly consideration exist worldwide, and aren’t we glad?



Brillig said...

Considerable kindness, indeed! What a cool thing!

As for your ability to communicate, I believe that's a beautiful form of art! I'd love to see you in action.

jmb said...

How lovely of her. You are now accepted totally into the community if they drop in on you.
Do you get to drop in on them?

Annie said...

Your neighbourhood sounds lovely.

We have neighbours from Puerto Rico. My spanish is sparse, and what little I have is very rusty - but we get by and I am familiar with the concentrating on hand movements and facial expressions! I just hope I interpret them correctly and don't upset her!

jenny said...

Ah yes, the art of conversation without knowing what they are saying. As a deaf person, I can definetely relate to this post! I can't tell you how many times I've carried on with someone and had no idea what they were saying, either someone with a mustache covering his lips so they are unreadable or someone whose lips hardly move at all and mumble their words. Or worse, a mover and a talker, someone that likes to move around quite a bit and then their face disappears from view so a whole paragraph gets missed. Argh! Only when they seem to ask a question is when I am in a little bit of trouble and I have to improvise.

It is a skill to carry on a conversation like that and you seem to have prefected it on all of your travels.

Bretwalda Edwin-Higham said...

Visiting is a vital skill, Lady M and needs to be done right.

KarenO said...

I'm happy to find out we feel the same about idle chit-chat! Maybe that's why both my chatty sisters favorite insult to me is the one about being a hermit. Oh well, I'm in the company of some great loners if you're there too! :)

dulwichmum said...

I love to read your observations, and your neighbours indeed sound lovely.

Omega Mum said...

If it's any consolation, I have huge problems being understood by anyone in my mothertongue.

Ian Lidster said...

You are increasingly amazing to me in your talents and intelligence. Such a privilege to know you, even by this means.

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

It must be your empathetic nature that helps you communicate so well.

Winchester whisperer said...

How very kind of her. Will you take her some of those lovely dates?

Sparx said...

That's a great skill - I confess that while I try, I don't always get it right and have got the wrong end of the foreign-language stick on several occasions, luckily always sorted out!

Mr Farty said...

You have a real talent. Not to mention lovely neighbours.

Just been catching up on those wedding photos - thanks for sharing, they are beautiful.

darth sardonic said...

remind me to post about roberto dibininost sometime. it's funny, and along the lines of your intuitive translation idea.

lady macleod said...

I work for champagne! Let me know when you want to schedule a "gig".
Thank you for coming by.

I think you may be correct, and oh yes! But you are talking hours! A visit is no small thing in this neighborhood unless you just catch them on the street - my method.
Thank you for coming by.

It is indeed. I'm sure you do very well. Most people I think appreciate the effort, I know I do.
Thank you for coming by.

I imagine you can figure out the signals like a champ! And that you know well how exhausting it is.
Thank you for coming by.

bretwalda edwin-higham
It is a gift.
Thank you for coming by.

The Hermit Society is a select group of only the most worthy. Tell your sisters that!
Thank you for coming by.

thank you and thank you for coming by.

omega mum
he he. I wonder why that is?
Thank you for coming by.

You are my best ego boost every day!
Thank you for coming by.

I hope so, that's a nice thought.
Thank you for coming by.

winchester whisperer,
That's a good idea!
Thank you for coming by.

But it can be a fun trip even when you get it wrong eh?
Thank you for coming by.

mr farty,
Thank you and oh good - I'm pleased you enjoyed.
Thank you for coming by.

Oh? That sounds good, do it love.
Thank you for coming by.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

I know exactly how you feel, Lady M: grateful for the visit and kindness but if we are not used to people "popping in" it can be hard. But it does mean you are accepted!