Another Day in Morocco

headscarf Moroccan style

Moroccan Ladies

It has been so hot here. This should not have come as a surprise, but somehow, we were not ready for the heat. When we go out in the afternoon, Bean asks to go inside. The child who never admits that she is tired, says often that she is too tired to keep walking.

Every day, I try to find some time to try and complete some work on the computer. The neighborhood we are in is full of children. Like most children, the girls play with the girls and the boys with the boys. Because Bean is happy to have anyone to play with, she will invite all of the children to play hide and seek. It is the one game she knows how to say in French and it is also because she enjoys running around.

In the evening time, I think because we have already spent at least an hour walking around in the heat, she will be too tired to play. Not so. Bean can find energy if she is able to play with other children. While I feel more comfortable if I can watch her while she plays with other children, though not intervening in her activities, I allow her to play outside alone. It has taken great self control on my part not to give her a lot of directions and instructions on how to play and what to do. She has gained more confidence to speak French and become responsible for her actions.

The first few days I was tense. Bean chose to play with the boys more than with the girls. The girls, it seems do not stay outside as long as the boys. Maybe it is because they are helping their mothers with housework. The boys hit and kick and run a lot. Bean is a home playing with them. I cringe inwardly. As I let her out of the door, I am praying she will not come home with a black eye or broken bone. She won’t. It’s just I don’t remember playing so rough when I was that age.

Everything has been going well, until the other day when I went outside to get her and tell her “It is time to come inside.” There is a mom standing there. Bean is in the middle of all of the boys. The mom begins to tell Bean to tell me what she did. Uh-Oh. I ask Bean what happened. Immediately she says that it was the girls who made her do it. I told her to tell me what happened. She said the girls told her to kiss the boys and she did. I was horrified. The mother looked really upset. I just told her to say “I’m sorry”, which she did and we got out of there. I could not imagine how my daughter would be brave enough to kiss a boy.

Many thoughts ran through my mind in that instant: maybe the boys where curious because Bean doesn’t look like any child they have seen before; maybe the girls challenged Bean to do something they were too scared to do; children often dare each other to do stupid things; how could my child have her first kiss at 6 years old? Finally, I calmly asked her to tell me what happened. Bean started to cry because she HATES to be in trouble. Once I learned the story, it was rather comical.

Bean is a very affectionate child. She is always hugging and kissing, children and adults alike. When she was playing, she gave hugs and kisses to the girls. The girls pointed to the boys. Bean shared her joi de vivre with them as well. She kissed one boy on the cheek and hugged another. It’s just what Bean does. Once I found out what happened, I tried hard not to start laughing. It was a laugh of relief and because it was also humorous. She hadn’t REALLY kissed a boy! I had to explain to Bean that different cultures expected different things from girls and boys. It was not a conversation I had expected to have with her at such a young age, but the circumstances demanded that I explain. I would rather she play with the innocence of childhood while understanding what is good touch/ bad touch.

I let Bean know that in most countries, when she gives hugs to children and kisses them on the cheek, it is o.k. But only if they don’t mind receiving a hug or a kiss on the cheek from her. In this country, and many like it, girls do not often play with boys or touch them. I explained that the mom was upset because she touched the boys and she was not in their family. She understood. While I don’t want Bean to change who she is because of the expectation of others, I do want her to be more aware of the behavior of others; their body language. She is still young, but I feel that she can look for cues and respond accordingly.

It is something we both must work on. I know I am too aware of what others are doing, and sometimes miss out on the fun. It is exhausting trying to make sure I am culturally correct. Most of the time, Bean could care less if what she is doing is appropriate. She may have more fun than me. I want to be more like her. We balance each other out, which helps us to be great travel partners.

Since being here, I have seen many westerners who try to adapt their clothing and actions so as not to offend the locals. I have seen others who do whatever they want and dress the way they want. For me, it is a constant struggle between being myself and trying not offend others. I know I can not please everyone and wonder why do I try. What do you think is the best way to travel?

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