Throwback Thursday : CousCous Friday
By Tarah Waters, RPCV Morocco 2013-2015
The climb to her house is one I both love and despise. On days I am feeling sluggish, sick, and lazy, the climb pains me, two hundred plus stairs to her house on the hill. Most days when I am happy, energetic, wired, creative, etc., the climb is relaxing, rewarding, spiritual almost, and much more. Regardless of the up hill journey, I make it often but mostly on Fridays for couscous.
Couscous is a tradition. Every Friday families and friends come together to share in a massive serving of couscous piled with vegetables, and big hunks of lamb, cow, or chicken. This is my FAVORITE meal in Morocco not only because the food is amazing, but also because of the cultural process that goes with this feast. I climbed the stairs to Zniba’s house and the walk was serene and comforting. I walked in and found her leaning against the pale yellow wall gazing through the faded pale green bars of the window. I slid my beaten leather Rainbow flip flops off by the door, and walked over to her, my blue torn skirt swishing between my legs. My hands fell softly to the ledge of the window, and Zniba placed her arm gently around my lower back. She asked where I had been, why I had not come to see her in a week, and I laughed because I knew my answer would merit a silly Zniba response. I smiled at the laughter to come and told her, “I was sick! My stomach was not ok because I ate too much meat at Eid.” She pulled me into her hip and when I turned to look at her, her rosy sun tanned cheeks filled my eyes followed quickly by that big smile of hers. She was laughing when she told me, “oh poor Itto, too much meat,” and then she made the sound she imagined my stomach was making, ‘Tuk, Tuk, Tuk, Tuk, Tuk.”
Her eyes filled with tears as she continued to laugh. I couldn’t help but laugh too and respond with a surrendering, “yeah I am a poor thing, my stomach was not in good shape.” After a few more shared minutes of staring out over Boumalne, Zniba patted me on the back and left to turn on the TV and make tea. I gazed out the window for a few more minutes thinking about how my time in Boumalne is ticking away. My heart pained knowing I would be leaving Morocco soon, yet what hurt most was knowing those precious moments with Zniba were winding down. I walked over and sat down on a pillow near the door to the living room. I watched my bare feet on the carpet below, and then raised my head to rest against the wall as I looked slowly around the room taking a mental panorama. Simple things in traveling can have the greatest affect on your mental and emotional processing of the new world in which you find yourself. This was one of those moments. I turned my gaze to the TV playing the weekly prayer segment of the king. I watched and listened to the sounds of the Quran, and wondered how my life will change again once I am away from Islamic culture. The call to prayer for example has become for me something of great power and beauty. Hearing it in the day brings me to the present moment, and subconsciously forces me into reflection of that moment in that day. To do that on a habitual basis is something I can’t explain. I pondered more how would my life change, once I am removed from this culture of listening to the call five times a day? Lunch began once everyone had washed his or her hands. Our guests included the Imam his little brother, and one of the construction workers from the site outside Zniba’s house. I was seated between Zaed and Jawad at a table with our guests, and Zniba sat at the table just next to ours (She always eats her own couscous, one with less salt). I was in the process of putting a giant spoonful of couscous with a big chunk of deep orange pumpkin into my mouth, when Zaed handed me my glass of Leben. I shoveled the food into my mouth and mumbled out a shukran. Grasping the cold glass cup in my left, and a spoon in my right, I poured the thick white buttermilk into my section of couscous. I scooped up the mushy white substance into my mouth, and got that rush of sadness over me again. Whether I choose to accept it now or not, my time in Morocco is ticking away rapidly. Moments of laughing with Jawad and Zaed, as they secretly pass me their veggies during couscous are coming to an end. My, “in the moment self,” pushes me to ignore the inevitable future, but something in my heart keeps gently reminding me. Perhaps it is to remind me to soak in every moment so that I remember just how I felt in those exchanges, those laughs, those hugs, and eating that couscous. This is what traveling is to me the little moments especially those dealing with the end. I am secretly addicted to the idea of leaving, and having a completion date on my time in any given place. The realization of time slipping through my fingers always pushes me to this out of body, no thought, in the moment experience of processing life. In the goodbyes I face at the end of the journey I am reminded of how fast life changes. I hate goodbyes and I always will, but I know they are inevitable.
My frustration with the process of goodbye, lies in the idea that in that moment of lives parting, something dies. As if in that moment when the last hug is given, part of life stops. I don’t like that feeling, so I always say in my heart, here’s to you and the time our lives had together, here’s to the moments we had, and here’s to our lives ahead. Forever our relationship will be in my heart, and I only hope that one day I can return, but if time and circumstance keeps us apart, then I love you forever and forever you will be in my heart. 17 October 2014