Reflections on Interdependence

A few days ago I came home from my morning English class and cafe sitting time to a stream of water coming out of the spout connected to the roof. Hearing my knock, my 15-year-old host sister, Khaoula, stuck her head over the edge and told me to come up.

I'm not usually invited up to the roof as this is normally the women's domain. I was greeted on the top step by a splash of water to the face and a happy family working together. The entire family was watching the man of the house, Hassan, dance around barefoot on dirty blankets covered in Tide. His pant legs were rolled up and he was blowing air through his teeth with every loud stomp on the soaking blanket. No one could hide their enthusiasm. The scene was rich enough in itself, but I couldn't help but relate it to some of my other cultural observations.

While sitting up on the roof watching the family work together I reflected on the benefits of interdependence. I relished the opportunities to move away for college and to now live in Morocco partly in the name of independence; but here are people who daily rely on one another and have no cultural qualms about it. For example, my host brother is 23, living at home, having his meals cooked for him, his bed made, his socks washed, his needs taken care of and he's anything but worried or antsy. He's not worried about his parents stifling his goals, hovering too much or asking too many questions. He's not worried about being seen as a momma's boy or scared to grow up. In fact, he relishes all the support he has available. Not only are his needs covered, but he has a valuable resource in his dad living ten feet away. Every night they talk about his soon-to-open cyber cafe, his future marriage (he's already married, but doesn't have enough money to support her yet so they are not officially married, or something like that) and numerous other things I'm sure.

Overall, everyone here is highly skilled at letting others help him or her, something I certainly could use a lesson in. Whereas they waste no energy on feeling guilty, helpless, or babied, I feel guilty every time someone in the house picks up some kind of slack I left behind and I constantly check my tracks to ensure I'm holding my own. Undoubtedly thanks in part to my American culture, I've been conditioned by the tenets of personal responsibility. From picking up after myself to supporting myself with a job, I pride myself in sustaining an independent lifestyle. Even though I don't think I could thrive in my host brother's shoes, I can't ignore the joy I see from the family's successful interdependence. Maybe it'll grow on me a little and I'll come home with more than just a love of intensely sweetened tea and couscous; or maybe I'll just continue counting the days until I get my own place.

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“Sunset at the Railroad” by PCV Nicholas Baylor Hall. Namibia, 2011.