Saturday, September 30, 2006
ode to the Amazighian
Strange how you can feel at home in a place you've never seen in your life.
It was the week of my brother Luke's wedding. It was also my first time in North Africa, though I think Algeria is the 47th country I've been to. The first night there, I stood on the balcony of my hotel room, alone, overlooking the quiet scene of Tizi Ouzou (the city of Luke's bride). The street looked dusty and there didn't seem to be any rules about crossing it. You could hear the sound of crickets in the night. I felt oddly at home and thought: "I'm back in Africa...yeah...I like this."
Strange how you can come to love a people in less than a weeks time.
The Amazighian or Kabyllie berbers (the picture is of their flag) spent the first evening staring at us strangers, not sure what to think. And yet they welcomed us and I was amazed by their kindness. In the hotel 6 waiters were serving us, while we were only three. This made me laugh, so I tried to pretend that my parents were saying funny things all throughout the meal. That didn't help much. My mother threatened to make me wear a veil if I didn't stop. :)
Throughout that week, they all got used to us (European fools who had no clue about their language or etiquette, but who kept smiling at them) and they even began to learn English. Meanwhile I tried desperately to improve my French. Some bowed their heads as they waited while we prayed, even saying "amen" with us. Outside the hotel we kept meeting people who were helpful, respectful and who had a good sense of pride.
These are people who have been ruled by others for ages. Their dignity hasn't been destroyed by that. I admire them and can only learn from their hospitality towards strangers.