“Stranger in a Strange Land”

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Sitting in a cafe in Ville Novelle in Fez at night, drinking sweetened mint tea and reading about the history of these “new towns” built by the French for French colonialists to feel at home in Morocco, I suddenly had a strange encounter.

I have seen glue-sniffing kids from Nepal to Mexico and it is always sad to see what this horrible addiction does to them: hollowed eyes, drooling mouths, empty smiles, souls slowly becoming thinner in inhalant fumes. I looked up from my book and a kid was staring at me and smiling that hollowed smile. I looked down and from the corner of my eye saw him linger sometimes longer and leave, turning back a few more times and finally walking away into the night.

It took me a few moments to realize he was wearing an Argentina soccer jersey. Maybe he thought I was from there (many many people think I’m South American, especially Argentinian). Maybe he wanted to tell me that, “I like your soccer, you play good!” But he was gone. Silence!

A few years ago, I met a drunk Mongolian policeman in a small town in China (Labrang) who staring at me from a bar stool suddenly got up started laughing and shot his feet in the air, mimicking a football kick, “you play good! Football!” At first, I had no idea what he was talking about. Then he said, “where you from?” “Canada.” This didn’t register. “No, where you are from?” “Hmm, originally Iran but I live in Canada”. “No! Maradona! You play football! Soccer!” “I see, no, actually, I am from Iran.” “Maradona, football, Argentina, good!” He kept kicking an invisible bar. Eventually, I gave up, “yes, football, good, Argentina!” He was satisfied. I left.

Here, in Morocco, I wish I was strong enough to walk up to this kid, see what he has to say and perhaps tell him, “no, I am not from Argentina, but in Iran we play good soccer too!”

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