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O Fim duma Viagem

The Kindness of Strangers

MOROCCO | Saturday, 26 July 2014 | Views [391]

 Our first priority upon reaching the trains station was to get tickets back to Rabat. This proved trickier than it seemed. The machines wouldn't work, then finally told us there weren't enough seats. We decided to try standing in line to see if that had any different results. They were out of first class seats, but still had some in second. (First class gives you seat numbers, so you're guaranteed a seat. Second class doesn't.)

 We compared the price of that versus another bus, but because the train ticket was slightly cheaper (and also were were in the station. And some of us wanted to take a train) we settled on that. So we went and bought five second-class tickets.

 The next priority was getting food. The good news was there was a small place that sold sandwiches inside the train station. The bad news was two-fold- it sold only cheese or turkey sandwiches, and there was a woman who kept glaring at us the entire time we were eating. I think she was just annoyed because she was hungry,but still. We're clearly not Moroccan. Except maybe Cynthia. Maybe she was glaring at us because she thought Cynthia was Moroccan and we were being a bad influence.

 With train tickets in our hands (not literally) and food in our stomachs, it was time to “explore Tangiers.” By which I mean “walk out of the train station and go straight for a bit. Stop when we reach a stone wall to sit down and wave at Spain.”

As we were sitting there, some little kids came running up and tried to engage us in conversation. They just spoke Darija. They were playing with each other, which was cute until it turned more aggressive. It was not even remotely cute when one of them pulled out a switchblade.

Then another guy showed up and made them scatter. He knew exactly one word in English, but in ac combination of Darija and Spanish asked where we were from. We said America, which set him off. “Fuck America. Fuck Israel. Fuck Europa.” He repeated that several times, and when he left he walked backwards, holding his thumb down, for a solid fifty feet.

The kids came back, asking for money to buy McDonalds. (We'd passed a McDonalds on the way over.) They kept crawling around near us, trying to open pockets in our bags. When someone gave them money, they left and handed it to two older (teenage or twenties) men. One of them was dressed in a t-shirt and jeans, the other was wearing a swimsuit and a towel around their neck. After the kids gave them the money, they came over to talk to us.

Their first assumption was that Nathan was married, or at least dating, at least one of us. We told them no, that wasn't the case. They also seemed to think that Erika and I were a couple, for no reason I could think of. I was sitting closest to Erika, but I was also trying to distance myself and send out pretty severe “don't talk to me” vibes. It worked more than it usually does, probably because the others were actually responding.

 Having determined that they we were sufficiently unattached, the two of them proposed to, respectively, Natasha and Erika. The guy proposing to Natasha even had a ring. (She said no.)

 As we were preparing to leave, an older man grabbed one of the guys and pulled him away. They looked like they were about to start fighting (it wouldn't be the first fight I've seen during Ramadan. Lack of food makes people cranky) so we sped up and walked away.

 The kids caught up to us. They walked with us until we were pulling out our tickets and getting into the train. At which point they apparently walked alongside the train tracks for awhile, because several minutes after the train started moving, we saw them. It was a little creepy, but they didn't get in the train, so it was fine.

 We managed to get five seats together. The train was made up of six-seat cars, and we'd just set Erika down as a place-holder in a car with three empty seats when two people from the car in front of us got up, leaving just one person. We immediately snagged it.

 We talked for a bit, then lapsed into silence or meditative contemplation.

 At 7:45, we heard the noise that signified the end of the fast. The man in the car with us reached into his bag, opened a container of food, and offered it to each of us.

 “After this long in Morocco,” Erika commented when he left the compartment, “I don't really find that surprising.”

 I would not have been remotely surprised if there were three of us sharing a compartment with three Moroccans and, after we'd struck up a friendly conversation, they'd offered us some of their ftour. But that wasn't what had happened at all.

 First of all, t here was one of him and five of us. Which meant that for a change, there kind of wasn't enough food. He had nutella thick-crepe/pancakes, maybe seven or eight of them. Which meant by the time he offered each of us one, he didn't have many left to eat himself. (We gave him a cookie. But that wasn't enough, and it also wasn't a stone-soup situation. We only had cookies.)

 He'd also been fasting all day. We notably hadn't. We'd been drinking water in front of him. If I were on an overtheated train unable to eat or drink for another hour and the people who were sitting next to me were drinking water, I'd probably decide they didn't need food and keep my nutella crepes for myself.

 The first words he said to us were “take,” (or a word that sounded like that) when he was holding out the container. We were little more than the annoying American students who talked loudly for decent portions of the trip. I don't know his name, his occupation, where he lives (I wasn't paying that much attention to where the train was when he got out, though I could theoretically have known that) or what he was doing in Tangiers. Even if he knew a lot more English than he let on, all he would have known was that we'd just come from a good trip in Chefchouen and a less good stay in Tamgiers and needed to write a political science paper. We didn't know each other. Yet he still gave us his food. 

Finally, it's not like we would have stared at him while he ate and made him feel awkward. He needed to get my attention away from the book I was reading and wait while Cynthia woke Nathan up. (We were the first two people, and after that him sharing his food was expected.) He could have looked around, seen that we were all distracted, and enjoyed his ftour alone.

 But he didn't. Instead, he delayed breaking his fast to offer food to five non-fasting passengers he couldn't really communicate with. Although I'd like actions like that to be so commonplace I no longer find them surprising, I hope I never lose my appreciation of how outstandingly nice they are.

Tags: beach, ftour, spain, tangiers, train

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