I’d like to introduce you to Khadija, the treasurer of the cooperative and the woman I’ll be living with during my two months in Ain Leuh. She is completely committed to her work at the cooperative, which she joined in 1983 when she was just 12 years old. Every morning she makes the climb from the bottom of town to the cooperative, where she weaves at her loom or discusses business with the cooperative’s president.
Living in rural poverty, Khadija has faced a number of hardships throughout her life. Walking is difficult for her, even with a full leg brace and cane, and it’s a real physical challenge climbing the steps to the cooperative. Her young son died in her arms when he was 2 years old from an infection that was misdiagnosed by the town’s one doctor. Her husband lives in Azrou, the only place he could find a job, and comes home only once a week. Khadija is a very strong woman, though, and is warm and generous with her time and affection. She is also patient with my constant questions while I stumble over the new vocabulary of the region. I am lucky to be living and working with her.
Nadia is Khadija’s daughter, a typical sulky 17 year old. She is unlike most Moroccan girls I’ve met because her friends are all guys, she smokes cigarettes and has absolutely no interest in marriage or babies. We make the 20-minute walk to souq together every Wednesday, but she otherwise keeps me respectfully at a distance.
5-year-old Mehdi is full of energy and makes me laugh. He bursts into song and likes to dance during commercials. We became buddies when he noticed a picture of a samurai sword on the cover of Shogun, the book I’m currently reading. Most of the time he’s out playing with the neighborhood boys, but occasionally he’ll keep me company and tell me about the activities of the neighborhood dog, Cookie.