Mud and Cement

The taxi to ait Hamza from Azrou was hot and sweaty and stuffed, 7 of us in a car barely meant to seat 5. First at the taxi stand, there was a fight with between the drivers and a man who thought he has a spot in the taxi. Finally we left, the wind barely seeping into the baking car. In the backseat were the young woman, probably my age, and her baby. Kenza offered to fill the baby’s bottle with cool water instead of the warm water that was already in it.

When the baby started crying the taxi stopped so the mother could get food for her. When the mother tasted the yogurt and seemed to think it was gone bad, all 5 other passengers of the tiny taxi inspected the label before agreeing that it was bad. The taxi then stopped again and the driver ran out to buy the baby yogurt that had not gone bad. I sat listening to everyone breathing heavily down each other’s necks as Kenza and the driver talked about the Quran.

Ait hamza sits in the cradle of the middle atlas mountain. Low houses set against dramatic hillsides, fields of greenish brown and roaming dark dogs.

In Kenza’s mud and cement house, I am welcomed by a curly haired little girl in a red dress, eager to become my friend. Her family says hello by kissing my cheeks (I still haven’t gotten the cheek kissing pattern down yet). It is Sunday afternoon and her mother, two brothers and two of her four sisters sit lounging against the long Moroccan couches, clicking at the TV’s bad reception signal.

In Ait Hamza, the children learn English in primary school, so her brothers were able to speak to me with their handful of vocabulary. Her youngest brother is works at a microfinance bank in the nearest town. I try explaining how I study economics and would love to hear more about what he does. He nodded, I think understanding more than he was able to conjure up in words.

This morning, I was awakened by a very angry cow who was screeching against the side of the mud and cement. In the kitchen, Kenza bakes bread on the floor, kneading the dough in a drumming pattern. We cannot meet with the women of the cooperative because no one seems to be around, so I watch everything, I read with the little girl sitting on my lap still, listening to her speak to me in jumbled Berber, content with the fact that most things here sound confusing and strange and new to the both of us.

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