The flight and my two new friends
I met Adil and his 4-year-old son Taha walking what seemed like miles across London Heathrow airport. It felt good to stretch your legs after an eight-hour flight from Chicago, and Taha felt like running. Adil striding to keep up with him, the two of them passed me on the left like a car swerving in and out of traffic.
I caught up with them at the line for security. Taha was swinging on a fingerprinted silver queue-bar and I happened to catch his eye. “Hi,” he said, all of a sudden straight-faced, frozen in a sort of limbo position underneath the bar.
I couldn’t help but chuckle. “Hi,” I responded. I looked up and exchanged nods with his father.
“Come on, Taha,” he said. “The line is moving.”
When I got to the gate, I found Adil and Taha there, sitting and bouncing, respectively. To my left there was a group of college students who would turn out to be fellow members of my study abroad program in Morocco. I walked past them and sat next to the father and son.
As Adil and I introduced ourselves, Taha started asking me questions.
“Why do you have a hat?” “Why do you have a hole in your jeans?” “Why do you have coffee?” “Why did you spill your coffee on your jeans?”
I answered these questions with delight as Adil gently scolded Taha, saying, “Why so many questions, buddy?” along with some words in Moroccan Darija: “Ariehh.” “Safi.” “Baraka.”
“It’s okay,” I said over and over, laughing. “I love kids.”
“He’s always hyper like this when he’s tired.” Adil said. “He’s fighting with sleep.”
Adil and I realized that we had come all the way from Detroit together. He told me he lived in Traverse City but was headed back to Morocco to visit his family for a few weeks. When the flight began boarding, Adil scribbled his name and number on a page in my journal.
“You will enjoy Morocco, my friend. Call this number if you need anything.”
Casablanca was a blur. I hadn’t slept for more than a couple hours of the 48 I’d spent preparing, packing and traveling. The African sun was so bright and I wondered why everyone was wearing a coat. There were palm trees here; wasn’t winter supposed to be, like, a technicality? I rode a bus back with the other students to a hotel. My exhausted head couldn’t handle it—Casablanca? Morocco? Daytime? What? I climbed the stairs to my room and let the force of gravity yank me to my bed.
A couple weeks later, I found myself pretty well-adjusted to Morocco. I no longer felt like a tourist—my Arabic was improving, my stomach had stopped somersaulting, and my body had begun to believe the clock. After getting myself lost on purpose (which I immediately regretted), I developed a mental map of the city of Meknes. Things were going great, but I wanted to make some Moroccan friends. I must have forgotten I already had some.
Over Facebook, Adil invited me to stay with him and his family for a long weekend (which will be the subject of my next blog). They showed me what Morocco is all about: a brand of hospitality I have never experienced before. I now know what people mean when they call Morocco “The Land of Marhaba.”