It was a regular Wednesday morning, and we had not heard from Farida – our local facilitator – for a couple of days. As Farida contacts her husband in The Netherlands daily and values good communication with us, not having heard from her worried us. After having called her for several times during the past two days, we decided to pay her a visit. Just to make sure everything was fine.
Unfortunately, all the doors at Farida’s place were shut and there was no movement to be heard or seen. In Morocco it is very common to keep an eye out for your neighbours and therefore our next step was to go see Farida’s neighbours. One of them, Latifa, always checks the lights and remembered she saw them turned on for the last time on Saturday. In the meantime another neighbour went to check her house again, and confirmed Farida’s absence.
We then decided to take the bus to the Souk, the local market, to check with Bekay, the man who serves tea to all of Saïdia and to buy some groceries. The bus would not come for another hour and Latifa and her sister Halima invited us in. She immediately apologised for not having anything to eat, which made us feel uncomfortable because we know they do not have much. Latifa then explained us about the Islamic New Year, which is defined by the position of the moon and would take place the day after. This transformed into a lesson Arabic and the entire Arabic alphabet was learned to us with the help of her young daughter’s schoolbooks.
After an hour of tough lessons , we were ready to go to the souk. However Latifa urged us to stay somewhat longer and go with Halima instead, when she would return to school. So we stayed, struggled over the Arabic alphabet and in turn taught Latifa a little English. Of course, before we knew it a tajine was served. Now we understood Latifa was not referring to lunch before, but to the things to eat with tea. Those treats are served daily in many Moroccan families, but Latifa did not have any to offer at the time. But she could offer us lunch, which she gladly did instead.
After the very delicious lunch, of which we tried to eat as less as possible whilst expressing fulfilment and thankfulness at the same time, it was time for the girls to return to school. We had to run for the overcrowded bus and were squeezed in between the many schoolchildren and elderly – everyone was returning from lunch. When we arrived at the Souk, we visited Bekay and asked him whether he knew more about Farida’s absence. He also seemed worried and told us she had appeared ill last Saturday when visiting him.
Bekay would try and call Farida himself, but first, we definitely had to sit down and drink some tea. Again Farida did not answer. He then called a befriended taxi driver to check with him. In the meantime we tried to message her husband. Our worries started growing stronger, because this was nothing like Farida at all. Why had she not been seen for the last couple of days and why were we not able to contact her? Seeing that Bekay too hadn’t found out anything yet, we drank some more tea and waited.
At last the taxi driver called Bekay back to tell him she was with family in Berkane – a city nearby – because she was quite ill. Immediately after we received a message from her to confirm this and to explain the bad telephone reception at her current location. A little bit relieved about her being taken care of we took off to do our groceries.
However, with Farida absent, we had to find a solution for the many contacts and translations we would be missing. Seeing that not all Moroccans speak French or English, Farida is quite essential to our project. Therefore we went to Mohammed for help. Mohammed – one of the many in Morocco – is what they call a Dutch Moroccan. He has lived in the Netherlands for many years and therefore speaks Dutch and Moroccan. Mohammed immediately agreed to help us and made a phone call to a local carpenter, who could help us build a new prototype.
So in the end, we could find solutions to all our problems and questions, but by the time we did the day had almost ended. It shows that the people in Morocco are verywilling to help you, but that it takes time.