Arhoussaine and his Family

We stop outside a school in a tiny village called Zebzat. As I step out to search for a parking place, I meet Arhoussaine who has his family home just behind the school. He invites us to park outside his house and insists we come in for a cup of tea. Frank has cooked a meal in the morning, a big pot of stew with ingredients from northern Spain, so we suggest the whole family may want to come and eat with us. Then we realise it’s got pork in it, so we have to undo our invitation – how embarrassing! But they take it with a gentle smile.

We find out that Arhussaine has studied and speaks a number of languages. Not being able to find work as a teacher, he became a lorry driver and for many years transported all sorts of stuff all across Europe.

His children, 4 and 7 years old, like so many children here look alert and bright and are a delight to be with. We show pictures we have on our phones, of Morocco’s beautiful landscape. We get some paper from the van and make origami shapes of birds and boats, a great way of making contact, as they can try and guess at every fold, what it’s going to be. I show the boy how to fold a boat. It’s very easy to do without any language, so this will definitely become part of what wed can do with other children we meet. A piece of wool I’ve had in my pocket since our visit to the cooperative quickly gets turned into a little person, some sticks from the fire- place turn into oars, and we have a little rowing boat.

The room has a few carpets and they bring in a mattress for us to sit on. There’s a television in one corner and a stove in the middle, nothing else. But despite the sparse furnishings (or maybe because of it???), there is such warmth, not just from the stove that is chucking out heat but from the people themselves. The grandmother speaks Berber and just a little Arabic, but nevertheless, we communicate, by touch, by eye contact and with the help of her son’s translations.

Unusually, they allow us to take photos. So here are some rare, precious pictures that capture the special feeling we experience of family life in Morocco.

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Next morning, they invite us for breakfast and we hit on the idea of bringing in our little portable printer, so we can leave them some of the photos we took. They are fascinated by the printing process and delighted to be able to keep the pictures.

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As we drive off, we feel like we are leaving home. There is such a strong sense of family and belonging in that house, and they allowed us to share it for a little while. It makes me reflect on my life choices, of moving to another country in my early adult years, of building a new home and family in Totnes, of once again now being on the road, travelling. Also the choices my children made to move away from their birth town to big cities. There are times, especially when life has thrown a spanner in the works, when I acutely feel the physical distance between us and our loved ones, all of us spread out across different countries. Thankfully the internet makes it possible to be in touch much more than was the case when I left Germany almost 30 years ago.

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For photos of this chapter, click here


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