Aisha was waiting for me on my way to school the next day. And the next. And every morning that I had the early hour of class. Because of her, I began to recognize the network of house workers who met regularly to chat on the way to their respective jobs.
Although I was glad for the chance to practice conversational Arabic, I still was unsure of what she wanted from me.
The day she had invited me to stay at her house grew closer. Because of my apprehension, I managed to whittle the overnight adventure down to a day trip. On the Friday before, we rehearsed what would take place on Sunday: I would meet her at the same place under the berry tree across from the bus stop at 11:00 a.m.
I don’t think she believed I would follow through with the plan. She tried calling me five times while I was in church. And when I finally answered, I was on my way to the meeting place.
She spewed a string of sentences I couldn’t understand, but what I assumed to be a reason that she was behind schedule.
“Okay. Okay. No problem. Okay.”
And I waited under the berry tree until a taxi pulled up and honked. Aisha was in the backseat, bouncing in her excitement. She grabbed me in a warm embrace before I had the chance to close the door behind me. And she talked, one rapid sentence after another, often missing the fact that I didn’t understand.
The taxi wound through the new city, behind the old city, and up up up on a hill. There was no containing Aisha’s joy as she led me out of the taxi and into her world.
It was the first bite of a day full of exquisite North African hospitality.