A morning of sounds

What does my typical North African morning sound like?

  • Mourning doves cooing outside of my window and a lonely rooster penned in someone’s courtyard
  • Slated shades being pulled up from various apartments
  • Water running, the electric kettle steaming, my own munching and slurping
  • A few mumbled “Good morning”s and “Have a good day”s
  • The bang of the door as I pull it shut behind me
  • Clomp, clomp, clomping down two stories of steps and the banging the apartment building door
  • The murmur of passing cars from a perpendicular street
  • A few snatches of conversation between school children and university students
  • A cat meowing as it digs through leftover garbage
  • “Bonjour!… Bonjour! Hola! Hello?”
  • Horns honking around a busy intersection as other cars and pedestrians assume the right-of-way
  • Motorcycles, buses, trucks, cars, bicycles weaving in and out of each other—the screech of brakes and more horns and perhaps some yelling
  • A jackhammer of busy men working on the street
  • “سلام”
  • The scratching of a stalk broom on a sidewalk
  • The buzz of the Arabic school’s call button and consequently the opening of three heavy doors: “.صباح الخير. لا باس؟”  “لا باس الحمد لله.”
  • The sharp sound of chairs on a bare floor and the rumble of moving wooden tables as we all pile in and settle down for a long Arabic session

Irritating?

Being immersed in a new culture reveals that some cultural customs are bad, some are neutrally different,  and some are good… sometimes better than they are in our own culture.

Quite honestly, something in this culture grates on my nerves. It doesn’t happen every day, but when it does, I find it inexpressibly irritating.

As I walk along the street,  I meet passersby who look like they lead normal North African lives. Then without warning, one of these normal-looking people veers in my direction and holds out their hand for money. It’s as if seeing me, a foreigner, makes them remember they are not satisfied with their normal lives.

Irritating? Quite. I am a victim of racial profiling.

Well, today as I walked to school, I began to rethink this irritation of mine. What if, instead of looking at me and recognizing their lack of money, they looked at me and recognized their lack of something much greater, Someone much greater? What if, by seeing me (not as a foreigner, but as a friend), they realize that they are not satisfied to live a normal life?

And when that happens, will I be ready or will I be irritated to share what I have?

Surrender

With fists half-closed I promise to release
If you will but see things my way after all.
Yes, I’ll give you everything!
Except that which I’m afraid you’ll take.
I’m right, you know, in what I do,
In what I think, and where I go.
I’m capable to live life my way.
The only reason I offer up these half-closed fists
Is not because I’m weak but because—
Well, maybe because I just want you to feel strong.
You see, I’m right in what I do
And once you realize this,
Of course I will surrender!

Ode to Marriage

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The rain is banging against the tarp, filling the concrete house with a dull roar. Just the sound of it causes my bones to shiver. I promised myself a cup of coffee as long as I diligently planned the week’s English lessons. Then I opened a blank document and forgot my promise.

There is something about having a sheet of white on my screen that makes my fingers want fill it up with random thoughts. This time my random thoughts are about marriage.

What do I know about marriage? Very little since I’ve been single for nearly 30 years. Yet, being in a culture that points to marriage as necessary for one’s spiritual journey makes me contemplate this more than I would were I still in the States.

In one perspective, life begins at marriage. The unspoken idea is that one cannot be happy unless they have a significant other.

Then there is the perspective that life ends at marriage. Think about how countless movies and books end with a couple finally realizing that they are right for each other. Why do the books and movies end there?

And then, even more real to me in this culture is the perspective that once a woman is married, she becomes her husband’s servant and is bound to her home. Her only joy after marriage is having children.

At times, I’m envious of married couples who step into this new world together and get to experience things as a unit rather as individuals.

To me, that’s one of the most beautiful things of marriage: companionship. I told my classmate my thoughts and she looked at her husband and smiled: “Yes, that’s true. But once you’re married, you don’t DO as much!”

I suppose there’s a flip-side to everything. That’s why I won’t stress out about my marital status. The preparation for anything is in seeking God’s face.

These are my disconnected, rainy day thoughts.