Friday, November 11, 2011

A train story, the bread and the mother, Morocco, August 2011

This is a blog to be seen as the pictures talk for themselves and show how and what I have seen in the world around me. However, there are things that not even the pictures can convey solely on their own. Therefore, I want to add a little story to this picture, explaining it because there are some photos that no matter what, they simply cannot tell the whole story.

“After arriving to Fez, I decided to leave. The decision was based on a hunch, a feeling, and an urge to not stop and keep going. You know those places where you feel immediately uncomfortable because of some strange bad vibes and the only thing that you want to do is to get away from there? My reaction to Fez was like that. As soon as I got there, I decided that was not a place for me to see or stay. Thus, I took the late afternoon train to Meknes. The train was full of people and I had to search for some nice place to sit.

At some point I entered a compartment occupied by a middle-aged lady and her young daughter. I asked if I could sit and the lady said yes. I thanked her and sat by myself, quietly reading a book. At some point, we exchanged some small talk, typical of those situations “yes, I am a tourist”, “have you here and there?”, “my French is not very good” and so on. At sunset, the lady started to bring food and drink out of her luggage; eating and giving it to the daughter (the Ramadan fast was over for the day). The most surprising thing – for my western way of thinking, naturally – was that she told me that I had to eat some figs, drink hot tea, eat another sandwich, and that I could not leave without eating one cake that she had bought in the market in the morning.

I was being fed, a mother was feeding a stranger at the same time that she was feeding herself and her daughter. She was sharing all of her food with me. After politely declining at first the food offering, I ended up accepting some of her food and drink. In a way, to not feel myself too guilty for eating the food that she had for herself and her daughter, I asked her if she had a son, and then gave her two t-shirts that I had in my bag, one from her daughter and another for her son, but actually, that seemed pretty negligible thing to give in return in relation to the amount of food that she was providing me with. She accepted the gift, although clearly not expecting it but not making too much out of it as well.

In the meantime, more food was being offered to add to my growing embarrassment. She was quite eager to keep on giving me more food, and after thanking her a lot, and politely declining whatever more foods that she was intending on offering me, she told me that she could not let me go without taking a bread. The bread would be for my breakfast tomorrow she said. I accepted the bread on the condition that she would keep the remaining food for herself and her daughter.

Still, self-conscious that I had nothing else to give her I said that her daughter was lucky because she had a really good mother, because only a really good mother acts like this towards the sons of other mothers. That she was offering food to a stranger as if the stranger was her son: only an excellent mother would do such thing; sometimes, I say what I am thinking out loud which is often socially awkward, but I was being absolutely sincere.

Giving like she was giving in our world is a rare thing; I do not see that often. Then I saw in her face and eyes something that struck me, this compliment was worth more to her than any material thing that I could ever given her, and I was thrilled that without knowing I gave her the most precious gift that I could have given her, freely and without knowing, and that this gift was more than she was hoping for. It was a happy moment based on sharing, and a spontaneous one from one to another, which made it much more fulfilling. I believe it was one of the most touching moments of my trip in Morocco.

Sometimes, appreciating the little things that the others do, and sometimes do for us, can be so important, particularly if we tell them. It can be so uplifting while at the same time costing nothing. It made me think that I could have been much more understanding in so many situations in my past, but one should always take these lessons into the present and the future. For the situations in the past, saying thanks personally is the best I can hope for. It will be easy and costs nothing. Eating the bread on the next day, ingrained these thoughts on my mind…

No comments: