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.

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.

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.”

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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