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Chatter and Couscous

A language study is more than sitting behind books in a classroom. We have therefore gone out many times to practice our French. Jan joined an Alpha course every Tuesday evening; Tabitha joined a weekly Bible study, an internship with a family doctor and every Wednesday a cooking course with African women. These afternoons were not only great to practice my French, but also to improve my knowledge of other cultures, beliefs and habits.

Greeting:
The ladies around here who have known each other for some time exchange four kisses, instead of the usual two. As one of the regular visitors I start to find my way around quite nicely. But when I see that the ladies are not sure how many kisses they must use to greet me, I realize that this is not a straightforward process… it creates great amusement though.

Men:
A woman from Algeria: “My husband was surprised to see that the men here play with their children.” A Moroccan widow: “When my husband passed away I had to mourn for four months. I was not allowed to leave the house, I had to be dressed in white and I was not allowed to look in the mirror. I am never to marry another man. But if a man loses his wife, he will remarry the very same day still.”

Religion:
Karima: “It is a full moon and I always fast at full moon.” Aïsha: “oh, is that a rule, I didn’t know that!” Karima: “it is not obligatory, but if you do this you will make up for not keeping the Ramadan in the right way.” Religion is an important theme for the women. Karima: “You can do a lot of good things, but you will never know if it is good enough; there might always be a wrong thought in your heart. That’s why you have to enjoy every day.” This is then also the prevailing mentality.

Pea soup:
My first blunder in my friendship with Muslim women happened when it was my turn to make a traditional meal from my homeland. Diligently I had been preparing a recipe for Dutch pea soup. But when I discussed the recipe with the women, they were not as enthusiastic as I had expected. With a combination of pity and distaste they asked me if I really eat pork meat….Of course I was ashamed, but how do you prepare pea soup without?


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