As I write this, I am sitting down to dinner here in my hotel room in Rabat. The sun is setting, and I hear through my open balcony door a Muezzin reciting the Adhan: the Islamic call to public prayer, at a nearby mosque.
Since I do not understand a word of Arabic (let alone the Moroccan Arabic dialect [Darija], or Moroccan Berber, or even French) the lyrics of the Adhan are a mystery, as are most of the conversations that have been going on around me today.
When I need help, I’ve been able to find English speakers fairly easily – which helps a lot while traveling alone – but I am definitely looking forward to joining my tour group in Marrakech tomorrow afternoon, when I can be certain there is always someone nearby who can communicate with the people of this beautiful land.
Even so, not speaking the language really limits me ability to hear the narratives, and so learn a bit about the lives and loves and concerns, of the people of Morocco.
And, a big part of why I am here is to hear those narratives. Our narratives – the stories we tell about ourselves – help us understand who we are, and help us communicate that understanding to others. The sharing of narratives helps bind individuals together as a family, or a tribe, or a political party, or a faith, or a nation. Narratives are the stories of how we came to be who we are, and where we are going. They are the collective memory of the group or groups that we identify with, the groups that help define our place in the world.
I think back on all the narratives I witnessed pieces-of today: the Limo-driver in Boston who told me a lot about his life and work on the way to the airport, the young waitress in Boston who served me lunch before I got on the plane. The steward on that plane who obviously was skilled and experienced at his job, but who gripped his seat like his life depended on it during the takeoff and again at the landing. The lovely retired couple from Minneapolis I met while waiting in the customs line here in Rabat, or the taxi driver – who doesn’t speak any English – that my lifelong Islamic brother Ahmed retained to pick me up and drive me to my hotel this afternoon.
I witnessed pieces of their narratives, but didn’t hear the full story from any. But this is always true. We never even get to share our own narrative in full with anyone, not even with ourselves.
I’m sure this two week tour of Morocco and my two night visit at the end with Ahmed will be enlightening. I love listening to the stories others tell. I love getting to know who they are, what their lives are like, and what’s important to them. I hope that some of that comes through in the narratives I will be sharing here in the days to come.
Copyright 2022, Allen Vander Meulen III, all rights reserved.
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