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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

An Unanticipated Role Model

A week in Morocco was not nearly enough to satisfy my desire to travel there. Upon arrival, I was greeted by a friend from home and her cousin who was living in Fez on a Fulbright scholarship. They took me to a café where I had my first avocado smoothie. Aside from the amazing food, a huge part of the trip was spending time with Fulbright scholarship recipients and Peace Corps workers. My first night there, I was taken to the host home of one of the Fulbright scholarship recipients, Lauren. They were having a goodbye party for her host brother who was about to move to Turkey. There were delicious desserts and sweet drinks served while everyone danced. My friend from home and I sat around awkwardly, not sure what to do with these people who spoke almost no English and were dancing to completely unfamiliar music. But soon we were coaxed onto the dance floor and stayed there for two hours. Lauren’s host sister, Iman was a 16-year-old girl entrancing everyone by her belly dancing. It looked like her hips weren’t even connected to the rest of her body. We were grateful for her teaching us a few techniques to get us started.

Getting to meet Iman was a significant part of this trip for me. She is a traditional Moroccan girl and is one of the nicest people I have ever met. She continuously welcomed us and sincerely wanted our time in Morocco to be unforgettable. Iman came with a group of us to Essaouira, a Moroccan beach city, for a music festival. This was her first time visiting anywhere in the country without her mother, so she was a little nervous. Our first day there, we decided to run on the beach. Iman wanted to come with us, but she had never gone on a run in her life. Since there was a music festival going on, there were so many tourists there that we could sort of bend the rules on what is appropriate in Moroccan culture. We taught her the basics of running, but she would become exhausted every few minutes. Sports were a huge part of growing up for me and I was dumbfounded at the concept of their absence. But mostly I was in awe of her bravery. A girl who not only was younger than any of us, but who grew up in a completely different culture was fearless to try something so foreign.

Some of the girls would run ahead and we would trade off staying back with Iman to help her. I ended up walking with her a lot, in part because I was out of shape, but also because I loved talking to her. I recall a particularly touching moment when I asked her what her favorite city in Morocco was and she replied Essaouira. When I asked why, she said that it was because of us. She loved the American culture and had grown attached to Lauren.

When our run ended on the beach, we took off our shirts and ran into the ocean. While we were all in sports bras, Iman only had a standard bra, but don’t think that stopped her. I was stunned at this experience. I was on a Moroccan beach for a music festival, watching a girl who had been told to cover her body her entire life strip down and jump into the ocean. We taught her the basics of how to swim before we went back to shore to do some beach yoga. While we stretched in the sun, she was having so much fun in the water she refused to get out.

I am still in contact with Iman and I hope to see her again one day. I did not enter Morocco expecting to find a 16-year-old local to become one of the most influential people of my trip, but I still find myself looking up to her strength, courage and confidence.

-Colleen Bouey


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